November 6, 2006
The Next Secretary of Agriculture?

You can tell a prospective presidential candidate is being taken seriously when people start to speculate on who will be appointed to positions in her administration. There was a lot of that going on Friday night in Lodi. Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, was the subject of the speculation. He was in town to get the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission's ninth-annual Wine Industry Integrity Award. Speakers had a lot of nice things to say of Trezise, who for nearly 25 years has been instrumental in building up New York's wine trade into the largest and fastest growing industry in the state, generating $3.4 billion in revenues per year.

In recent years he's developed a close working relationship with New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Thus, should she be elected president Trezise presumably would be at the top of her list of potential appointees. One speaker suggested "wine czar." I don't think so. Another suggested press secretary. Closer, but Trezise is too proactive for that role. He probably could be named ambassador to France, but that would take him too far from his beloved Finger Lakes in west-central New York. He did, however, spend three years in France before becoming involved in the wine trade, doing the sorts of things that all American ambassadors to the country should do - learning the language, studying pottery, waiting tables, teaching English to Air France pilots, and writing a book on the French and British reaction to Watergate. This was some time ago, but it shows his well-rounded background.

No, I think Secretary of Agriculture would be more in line with his more recent experience. The guy simply loves farmers, and the affection is returned, according to several of them. He understands them, they respect him. Both have a can-do spirit that is just virtually unstoppable.

Speakers Friday night saluted Trezise for all sorts of accomplishments, and they couldn't resist his penchant for coming up with catchy phrases that stick in the mind, though he sometimes apologizes for his poetry: "The product is a pleasure, the people a treasure," he says of wine and the people responsible for it. "Diversity is our strength, unity our power," he says of what independent-minded farmers can accomplish when they share a vision. And let's not forget "Uncork New York," the song he has been singing for years to get people to discover New York wine.

On his flight back to New York he well may have been dreaming up a campaign slogan for Sen. Clinton.

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