Gov. Tony Evers on Monday appointed the former public health leader in Milwaukee as secretary of the state Department of Health Services.
Kirsten Johnson, who formerly served as Milwaukee’s health commissioner for two years until resigning in January, will become the third secretary of the state agency under Evers when she takes the position on Feb. 27.
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She replaces Karen Timberlake, who served in the role from January 2021 until her resignation in December. Evers’ first secretary, Andrea Palm, drew heat from the Republican-controlled Legislature for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Palm left to serve as a deputy US Health and Human Services secretary in President Joe Biden’s administration.
Neither Palm nor Timberlake was confirmed by the state Senate. Johnson, like her predecessors, can serve in the role unless the Senate would vote to reject her confirmation of her.
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“Kirsten has a storied, 20-plus year career in public health and public service, including her time serving Washington and Ozaukee Counties and the city of Milwaukee during some of our state’s toughest days,” Evers said in a statement.
Johnson had worked in the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department for more than a decade before coming to Milwaukee.
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Johnson said in a statement that over her career in public health she has “worked to address the challenges and health disparities facing Wisconsin’s rural, urban, and suburban communities alike—disparities that were laid bare by the pandemic.”