By Doug Schmitz
FRANKFORT, Ky. – As Kentucky’s new state veterinarian, Steve Velasco, III, said one of his goals is to deliver effective and consistent regulatory oversight, while striving to work in partnership with producers and stakeholders.
“I would also like to provide consistent and fair leadership, fill open positions with appropriate qualified personnel who have similar goals to my own, and provide for succession to the state veterinarian position,” he said.
“I would also like to provide the Office of State Veterinarian personnel appropriate information technology to allow consistent regulatory oversight, sensible and practical record keeping, and suitable statistical analysis of programs,” he added.
In early May, the Kentucky State Board of Agriculture unanimously selected Velasco to serve as the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s new state veterinarian.
“The role of Kentucky state veterinarian is a critical one for the health of our agricultural animals across the state and the public at large,” said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who chairs the Kentucky State Board of Agriculture. “Dr. Velasco’s vast experience sets him up to fulfill this task with great professionalism and skills.
“The board has done a wonderful job in searching for the best candidate for this important position,” he added. “We are excited for him to join our team and look forward to his contributions for the betterment of our agricultural sector.”
A search committee established by the board recommended Velasco, of Corpus Christi, Texas, to the board. Velasco, who started in mid-June, replaces Dr. Katie Flynn, who announced her resignation from the department in February.
Prior to his newest position, Velasco served as a region director at the Texas Animal Health Commission since 2020. In this role, he managed and directed regulatory programs, along with full-time field and office staff.
“After three years in that position, I felt that I wanted to expand my personal development, and, as I had always wanted to practice in Kentucky, decided to apply for the Kentucky state veterinarian position,” said Velasco, who has veterinary licenses in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, he grew up participating in 4-H horsemanship and competing in high school rodeo. Upon graduation, he attended the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, followed by an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
He later attended Texas A&M University, where he received a bachelor of science in veterinary science and a DVM with an emphasis in large animals. He spent the first six years of his career as a racetrack veterinarian in Louisiana and Arkansas.
In 2000, Velasco returned to South Texas, where he spent the next 20 years at a large animal ambulatory practice. He also worked in the equine sports medicine and stocker cattle industries, supporting 4-H and FFA programs, and providing veterinary services for wildlife.
When asked about how he will address the current shortage of rural veterinarians in Kentucky, he said, “This is a multi-factorial problem, and could encompass several actions to correct.
“Among these are: recruiting appropriate candidates into veterinary schools; providing pre- and post-graduates mentoring opportunities with rural and large animal practices; and making compensation commensurate with other segments of veterinary medicine and other professional occupations in general,” he said.
The state veterinarian is an agent of the State Board of Agriculture and leads the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Office of State Veterinarian in its statutory and regulatory activities to prevent, control, and eradicate communicable diseases in the agricultural animal health sector.
Specific duties of the state veterinarian include:
- Serving as the executive director of the Office of State Veterinarian;
- Overseeing all functions of the Office of State Veterinarian;
- Ensuring statutes and regulations are enforced;
- Participating on the Commissioner of Agriculture’s executive team;
- Advising the commissioner on issues involving animal health and other issues as requested;
- Testifying to legislative committees as requested;
- Serving as a liaison to livestock and poultry organizations and leaders; and
- Representing Kentucky with the United States Animal Health Association, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, Southern Animal Health Association, and other animal health organizations.
“I’m excited to join the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, taking on the role as state veterinarian,” Velasco said. “My career has been focused on being an advocate for animal health and public awareness.
“I look forward to continuing that path as I join the dedicated and professional team at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and work with the wonderful animal industry throughout Kentucky,” he added.