Wisconsin’s health secretary Andrea Palm will leave her post Jan. 20 to serve in the Biden administration as deputy secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Former Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake, who served under former Gov. Jim Doyle, will be the state’s interim health secretary, according to a release from Gov. Tony Evers.
“Andrea Palm is a public servant through and through—she's been a critical part of our administration and a consummate professional who has done an extraordinary job helping lead our state during an unprecedented public health crisis,” Evers said in a statement.
Palm had previously served in the federal HHS department as a senior counselor and chief of staff before leading Wisconsin’s health department.
She faced a tumultuous tenure at the helm of Wisconsin’s health department, facing a pandemic and calls by conservative state senators to have her fired over her pandemic response. Palm was never confirmed by the state Senate, leaving the department remaining a secretary-designee.
The shakeup at the state’s health department comes amid the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and as the state continues to weather the pandemic. Evers said Timberlake is able to “hit the ground running,” citing her experience with the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
“Karen Timberlake brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in public health, healthcare, and healthcare systems that will be critical as we continue distributing vaccines quickly in our fight against this virus,” Evers said.
“This pandemic has meant unprecedented challenges for our state, but I’m looking forward to returning to the Department of Health Services and serving with Gov. Evers and his administration,” Timberlake said.
“Our top priorities at the DHS will continue to be advocating to receive Wisconsin’s fair share of vaccines from the federal government, distributing vaccines out across the state, and getting shots in arms as quickly as possible while we work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she added.