Gov. Tony Evers appointed Kirsten Johnson as the new Health Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Monday.
Johnson is filling a vacancy that was created after former Secretary Karen Timberlake left the position Jan. 2.
“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,” Evers said in a press release.
Johnson has served as a public health leader in various positions over the past twenty years, most recently as the Commissioner of Health for the City of Milwaukee, a role she was appointed to in January of 2021 by former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
“Over the past 20 years of my career in public health, I have 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,” Johnson said in the Governor’s press release.
Johnson started her role in Milwaukee by managing the city’s COVID-19 response and vaccine roll-out. She played a key role in the organization of mask mandates as well, according to Urban Milwaukee.
Public health expert and one of Johnson’s close colleagues Patrick Remington said Johnson’s extensive experience will strengthen Wisconsin’s already top-tier health department, especially in times of possible health crises.
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“The secretary is really well positioned to be a leader of an amazing team that she can rely on,” Remington said. “It’s really a job of figuring out the balance of responding to health emergencies and investing in long-term problems like mental health.”
Wisconsin’s Health Department consistently leads the nation in various healthcare rankings, ranging from 15 to first in the past five years, according to the Wisconsin Healthcare Association.
Johnson is scheduled to start in her new position Feb. 27, according to the Governor’s press release.