The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Back home again

Ross serves as secretary of California's food and agriculture department

When Karen Ross attended a recent service at St. John Lutheran Church, Sacramento, Calif., several of her former Sunday school students ran up and gave her a big hug.

The children may have been surprised to see Ross, who was still shaking off a feeling of disbelief that she was home. That's because Ross had expected to be in Washington, D.C., for the next couple of years as chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Instead, she received a call from the newly elected governor of California, Jerry Brown, to become the secretary of the state's Department of Food and Agriculture.

"I had a great job, but how could I pass up this opportunity?" said Ross, who added that she was humbled to serve as an advocate for the farmers who work California's diverse and rich land.

Karen Ross is back in California to
Karen Ross is back in California to advocate for farmers.

While Sacramento now is her home ("I refused to change my congregation membership when I moved to Washington," she said), Ross was unsure about heading to the coast when she and her husband, Barry, moved from the Midwest in 1989.

"My husband was offered his dream job, so we came," said Ross, who grew up in Nebraska and had served as government relations director for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association. "After we moved, he would come home every day for about seven months to find his wife crying and unable to find a job."

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