President Biden last week appointed Andy Berke administrator of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

RUS provides much-needed infrastructure and infrastructure improvements to rural communities, including broadband and telecommunications services. Chris McLean has been serving as acting RUS administrator.

“Throughout his career, Andy has demonstrated a clear and constant vision to improve the lives of rural Americans,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “Andy’s advocacy for better services, safer streets and improved infrastructure makes him an inspired choice for the role of Rural Utilities Service Administrator. I look forward to his continued leadership at USDA.”

Berke has spent many years serving in the public sector. Most recently, he was a special representative for broadband at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Commerce Department. Before that, he was mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., from 2013 to 2021.

During his time as mayor of Chattanooga, Berke was named a Digital Inclusion Trailblazer by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for his efforts to increase broadband accessibility to his constituents. Those efforts include establishing a first-of-its-kind program to expand free high-speed internet service to families with children receiving free or reduced lunch at school.

In 2007, Berke was elected to the Tennessee State Senate, where he served until 2012. During his tenure, Berke was on the Senate Transportation and Education Committees and was appointed to the Governor’s State Workforce Development Board and Interagency Coordinating Council on Early Learning.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.