Wisconsin DHS Secretary; Kirsten Johnson appointed by Gov. Evers

Kirsten Johnson

Gov. Tony Evers announced on Monday, Feb. 6 his appointment of Kirsten Johnson to serve as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), effective Feb. 27, 2023.

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.

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 U.S. 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.

"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. "I have no doubt that her wealth of experience in public health, as well as her commitment to reducing disparities in health so every Wisconsinite can live their best and fullest life, will serve the Department and our state well."

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Johnson had worked in the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department for more than a decade before coming to Milwaukee.

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."

More reaction

Milwaukee Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa, District 8

"I wish that she would have stayed with us. She helped, shepherded us through the pandemic, and I’ll never ever forget that. Thank you to her and her hard work and her team. And I’m not surprised that Gov. Evers has scooped her up, and I know she’ll do great work at the state level for us."

Associated Press contributed to this report.