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

Janet Stanek’s appointment will be subject to review by the Kansas Senate

By: - November 29, 2021 11:00 am
Gov. Laura Kelly appointed Monday an acting secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. She selected Janet Stanek, director of the State Employee Health Benefits Program. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Gov. Laura Kelly appointed Monday an acting secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. She selected Janet Stanek, director of the State Employee Health Benefits Program. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

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.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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