New Michigan Office of Rural Development announces chief

What is happening: Michigan’s Office of Rural Development was first announced earlier this year, the result of a Executive Directive that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released Jan. 4, 2022. Now the fledgling office has its head: Sarah Lucas, Michigan’s first deputy for rural development. Lucas was announced as an assistant on Tuesday March 15 and is officially set to start on Monday April 18.

A bit of context: the Rural Development Office operates within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), created to meet and advance the needs of rural communities throughout the state. The office will coordinate and facilitate rural development efforts and serve as a point of contact for community leaders on issues facing rural areas.

Target areas: As announced when it was created, the Rural Development Office will endeavor to work with Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) on issues of economic development and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) on affordable housing issues. Additional focus areas include sustainability, environmental conservation, and green energy efforts; address population and demographic trends; education issues; expand access to high-speed Internet; and working with tribal leaders in Michigan.

“Through inclusive collaboration, we are committed to investing in our rural communities and businesses through job creation, infrastructure and housing expansion, and environmental sustainability,” said Gary McDowell, director of MDARD. “Sarah [Lucas] will focus on reinvigorating Michigan’s rural economies and be their partner on the critical issues they face.”

About Sarah: Lucas has spent the past 20 years in community and economic development in small communities and rural areas of Michigan, most recently serving as CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette County. She lives with her family in Marquette.

What they say : “Having spent most of her career in small towns and rural areas of Northwest Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, Sarah has a deep connection and understanding of the challenges facing our rural communities,” says McDowell. “His more than 20 years of passion and experience will serve the people of Michigan well.”

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