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Judy Canales M '91

Second Time Around

By Donna Parker

Most people would consider it an honor to receive one presidential appointment, but Judy Canales, who received a master’s degree in urban studies from Trinity in 1991, is already on her second.  Previously appointed by President Bill Clinton as the acting associate administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Judy currently serves as the administrator for rural business and cooperative programs for the USDA Rural Development.  Appointed by President Barack Obama, Judy is proud to be the first Hispanic woman to hold this position.

“I just appreciate the fact that I’m still involved in public service and have these great opportunities to serve my country and the President,” says Judy, who also earned a second master’s in public administration from Harvard University. 

Partnering with the private sector, public entities and community organizations, Judy’s focus is on rural business creation and expansion, as well as managing the loan guarantee program for loans made to banks, knowing that banks are then more inclined to make loans to small businesses.

“Businesses are percolating right now in rural America.  We have economic stimulus funds in addition to our traditional program funds and as a result, we’ve seen more activity in the first half of this year than we did in the entirety of 2009,” she says proudly.

Judy, who began her public service journey while still a Trinity student, credits Drs. Earl Lewis and Cathy Powell, both in the department of urban studies, for inspiring her to serve others. 

“Through both of them, I got to know the workings of San Antonio – inside and out.  The city was our laboratory and because they encouraged us to attend community meetings and meet the various people we were serving, it made us dig deeper than we ever would have thought possible,” remembers Judy.
“It almost makes me cry to think about it.  We were taught not to be judgmental because we dealt with the reality of people’s circumstances.”

“Trinity was a place with resources and accessibility and it doesn’t get much better than that.  Even as a graduate student, I got involved in the student council, working with undergrads.  There was a closeness that you just couldn’t find anywhere else.  We were very blessed.”

Judy, who lived in Eagle Pass for eight years in between presidential appointments, says it was that understanding of community that she drew upon when she went back to that border town.
“I went in as the assistant city manager and then ran for state representative.  I didn’t win, but now it’s in the back of my mind that holding public office is eventually what I want to do with my life.”
As busy as you might imagine, when she has a spare moment, which isn’t often, Judy loves to take in a good movie in DC.

“It’s a retreat for me.  I love indie films and foreign films,” says Judy, who continues, “The other great thing about Washington is just walking around and taking in the city sights.  I never tire of seeing all there is to see and for a girl who was born and raised in Uvalde, that’s a big deal,” she laughs.
You may contact Judy at Judith.canales@wdc.usda.gov.