Prior to attending the University of Richmond, Todd Haymore, ‘91, spent his childhood growing up on his grandparents’ tobacco farm in southside Virginia.

Despite his grandparents’ pleas for him to not become a farmer, Haymore’s professional career has led him to the top of Virginia’s agricultural industry as Gov. Bob McDonnell’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.

Although he sees himself as nonpartisan, he got his start in politics early working on campaigns. At the age of 10, Haymore was knocking on doors for former Republican state Sen. Onico Barker, an experience he said spurred him on in politics.

Haymore later interned with Barker at the state capitol while earning a bachelor’s degree in political science at UR.

“I learned from [my parents] the importance of being involved in political activity because the outcomes affected your life,” Haymore said.

Haymore lives in Richmond with his wife, Margaret, and their three daughters. As secretary, he is McDonnell’s point person—the chief marketing and development officer—for agriculture and forestry interests in Virginia, as well as throughout the country and world.

Aside from meeting with the governor regularly about policies, legislation, and issues, Haymore also works with private sector companies producing agricultural products to move them globally. He also focuses on local efforts, such as promoting more farmers’ markets across the state.

“That is what I wake up every morning thinking about and generally [it’s the] last thing I go to bed thinking about,” Haymore said. “What can I do to fulfill the governor’s mandate to help create more jobs and opportunities for our citizens?”

But Haymore has not worked with only Republicans—and sees it as an asset that he works well with both parties.

After college, he got his professional start as the communications director for former 5th District U.S. Rep. L. F. Payne, a “blue dog Democrat,” as Haymore described him. He later worked as deputy campaign manager when Payne ran for lieutenant governor.

Political science professor Dan Palazzolo met when Haymore arranged a meeting for Palazzolo’s class with Payne in his Washington office.

“Todd was so helpful,” Palazzolo said. “He had a positive experience as a political science major and was eager to share his experiences with other students and expose them to a member of Congress and other staff in the congressman’s office.”

After more than seven years working with Payne, Haymore returned home to Danville to work in the private sector for tobacco company Dimon, then moved back to Richmond with Universal Leaf Tobacco.

Haymore worked his way up through the company to director of external affairs at Universal Leaf, all while getting his MBA at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In 2007, then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine asked him to serve as commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. Although Haymore turned him down once, he accepted a month later and served until McDonnell asked him to be on his cabinet in Nov. 2009.

McDonnell said in an e-mail that he chose Haymore because of his background, his experience and the personality needed to be the face of Virginia’s products.

“Todd understands the issues facing these important industries,” McDonnell said, “and just as importantly, he knows well the people involved in them. His work to promote Virginia products is paying off, and it will mean new jobs for our citizens and a stronger economy for our Commonwealth.”

This story was included in the spring 2011 issue of Artes Liberales. Reprinted with edits and permission from the Danville Register & Bee.

Photo by Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch.