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Joe Leonard

Photo of Joe Leonard

Chief of Staff

Joe Leonard, Jr. serves as Chief of Staff to the Senior Advisor for Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC.

Leonard, previously served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture where he was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the US Senate on April 2, 2009. Leonard is the longest serving Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in USDA’s history and the longest serving African-American Senate confirmed appointee ever at USDA.

Under Leonard’s Leadership, USDA was able to accomplish several historic accomplishments. To address long standing allegations of past discrimination, Leonard spearheaded an effort to settle large standing class action lawsuits with Native American and African-American farmers and ranchers and established a voluntary claims process for women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers, which provided payments of more than 2.5 billion combined and over 118 million dollars in debt forgiveness. Notably, during Dr. Leonard’s tenure, there has been an increase in civil rights trainings within USDA nationwide, a 50% decrease in farmer complaints nationwide, a 9% increase in the number of African-American farmers and a 21% increase in the number of Hispanic farmers in the United States.

Additionally, in 2013 the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) provided unprecedented protections for Gender Identity and Gender Expression for conducted programs at USDA, in 2014 OASCR issued a Department regulation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of National Origin affecting persons with limited English proficiency in assisted and conducted programs.

Before joining USDA, Leonard served as Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). While at the CBC, Leonard managed the daily activities of the Caucus and helped guide the legislative policy for its 43 congressional members.
Prior to his role at the CBC, Leonard served as Executive Director of the Black Leadership Forum, an umbrella organization of 32 member groups that together work to develop and implement public polices for African-Americans in urban and rural America.

He also served as the Washington, DC bureau Chief of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Director of the Arthur Fleming Institute of the Center for Policy Alternatives.

Leonard is a native of Austin, TX. He holds a PhD in American history with a specialization in civil rights history from Howard University, Washington, DC; an MA degree from Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA; and a BA degree from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX. Leonard and his wife, Dr. Natasha Cole-Leonard are proud parents of 15 year-old son, Cole.

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(202) 724-5392