Governor appoints new leader for Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Kirsten Johnson joins administration after leading Milwaukee Health Department

City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson
City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson. Photo courtesy of the City of Milwaukee

Gov. Tony Evers has named the leader of Milwaukee’s health department as the new secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The governor announced the appointment of Kirsten Johnson Monday. She will take over leadership of the department on Feb. 27, and fills the vacancy left by the resignation of former DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake. Timberlake announced her resignation late last year, leaving the department effective Jan. 2.

Johnson has worked in public health for 20 years. Before working in Milwaukee, she led the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department for more than a decade. She also worked in the past as a health policy fellow and advisor for former U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, as a program manager for the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute at the Medical College of Wisconsin and as a health education volunteer with the Peace Corps. She had announced last month that she planned to leave the Milwaukee position in early March.

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“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 stated.

Timberlake led the department for two years before stepping down. Like several of Evers’ other cabinet members, her appointment was never confirmed by the Republican-led state Senate. Johnson also will serve as acting secretary unless she is confirmed by senators.