Kansas governor appoints acting secretary of state’s health, environment agency

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TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly nominated a health care administrator Monday to fill the role of secretary at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Janet Stanek, who has served since September 2020 as director of the State Employee Health Benefits Program, will work as KDHE secretary in an acting capacity pending confirmation proceedings in the Kansas Senate. She replaced Lee Norman, who stepped down as KDHE secretary earlier in November after holding the job since Kelly took office in January 2019.

Kelly said Stanek would be responsible for moving KDHE into the next phase of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With Janet’s decades of experience as well as the relationships she has built across the medical community in Kansas, I have no doubt that she will be able to step into this role immediately and continue the agency’s critical work,” the Democratic governor said.

Stanek was in health care leadership positions during the past 35 years in Kansas, Pennsylvania and New York. In addition to the state health program in Kansas, she was at Stormont Vail Health in Topeka for 21 years. She was chief operating officer and senior vice president at Stormont Vail.

Stanek, also chairwoman of the Kansas Health Institute board of directors, said she looked forward to working with KDHE colleagues.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the agency has done a remarkable job helping lead the state’s response to this once-in-a-century crisis,” she said.

Stanek received a master’s degree at Alfred University in New York and a bachelor’s degree in health information management from the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute in Utica, New York.

On Nov. 19, Norman abruptly departed KDHE after months of dialogue with Kelly administration officials about a possible change in leadership within the agency. Norman’s public profile had been diminished throughout 2021 after clashing with Kelly’s chief of staff.

Kelly marked Norman’s exit by noting the “vital role” he played in the administration’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic. She had appointed Ashley Goss, a deputy KDHE secretary, to serve on an interim basis as secretary.

Kelly said Ximena Garcia, a physician who advised the governor on vaccination issues, would be acting state health officer and Medicaid medical director.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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