Miller-Meeks to Public Health and other Branstad appointment news

Governor-elect Terry Branstad announced today that ophthalmologist Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks will run the Iowa Department of Public Health in his administration. A press release noted that Miller-Meeks “has served as the first woman President of the Iowa Medical Society and was the first [woman] on the faculty in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa and councilor for Iowa to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.” Miller-Meeks was the Republican nominee in Iowa’s second Congressional district in 2008 and 2010. She worked hard during both campaigns but lost to Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s most Democratic-leaning Congressional district.

Also on December 9, Branstad announced that he will tap Chuck Palmer to head the Department of Human Services in his administration. Palmer did that job during Branstad’s previous time as governor from 1989 to 1999. Most recently he has been president of Iowans for Social and Economic Development, “an asset development organization with the mission of creating opportunities for low and moderate income Iowans to increase income and achieve financial stability.”

Branstad has pledged to reduce the size of state government by 15 percent, and keeping that promise would likely require significant cuts in the departments Miller-Meeks and Palmer will be running. The current budget (fiscal year 2011) allocated $935.5 million from the general fund to health and human services. That’s 17.7 percent of the general fund budget alone, or 15.9 percent of total state expenditures, including federal stimulus money and reserve funds as well as general fund spending. More than $200 million in federal stimulus money supported Iowa’s Medicaid budget in the current budget year, but similar support won’t be forthcoming in future years now that Republicans have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Branstad administration press releases on Miller-Meeks and Palmer are after the jump.

Branstad press release of December 9:

(URBANDALE) – Gov.-Elect Terry Branstad today announced that Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks will serve as head of the Iowa Department of Public Health in the Branstad-Reynolds administration.

“Today we have announced that Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks will be the head of the Iowa Department of Public Health,” said Branstad. “Dr. Miller-Meeks’ dedication to public health is evident from her service and leadership in various medical organizations, and I look forward to working with her as we work to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health works with local health organizations, lawmakers, health care providers, and businesses to educate the citizens of Iowa on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“I am honored to have been chosen by Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor-Elect Reynolds to head the Iowa Department of Public Health,” said Miller-Meeks. “I look forward to working with the Legislature, public health organizations, health care providers and the community to maintain and advance the health of all Iowans.”

Dr. Miller-Meeks completed her undergraduate degree in nursing at Texas Christian University and earned her M.D. from The University of Texas Health Science Center. Miller-Meeks, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves and ophthalmologist, has served as the first woman President of the Iowa Medical Society and was the first women on the faculty in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa and councilor for Iowa to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. She has resigned her position as alternate delegate to the AMA upon being considered for this appointment. She has been volunteering at a free medical clinic in Cedar Rapids helping families who have fallen on hard times and is also a CASA volunteer.

Miller-Meeks and her husband, Curt, reside in Ottumwa and have two children.

Branstad press release of December 9:

(URBANDALE) – Gov.-elect Terry Branstad today announced that Chuck Palmer will serve as the head of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the Branstad/Reynolds administration.

Palmer held the position for a decade, from 1989-1999, and brings with him a wealth of experience for the position overseeing Iowa’s largest executive branch agency.

“This is a critical time for human services in Iowa, and I am pleased that someone with Chuck’s knowledge and expertise is filling this important role within my administration,” said Branstad. “Chuck was one of our best department heads in his previous tenure. He was a great fiscal manager and was always empathetic to the constituents’ concerns.”

The DHS is an umbrella agency that provides statewide services in child welfare and juvenile justice, mental health and developmental disabilities, Medicaid, welfare reform and child support recovery.

In the position previously, Palmer was instrumental in providing leadership and direction in policy and program development, strategic planning, fiscal management and oversight of more than 5,500 employees in 99 counties and 8 mental health, developmental disability and juvenile justice institutions.

“I look forward to this new challenge, and am ready to begin work on day one,” said Palmer. “I believe we can improve services while keeping costs in line, and utilize innovative measures and ideas to run an efficient, well-run DHS.”

Since 1999, Palmer has served as president of Iowans for Social and Economic Development, which is a statewide nonprofit organization providing a variety of asset development services in Iowa targeted to low-income populations, including microenterprise development services.

  • Good person

    I always got a sense from MMM that she wasn’t as conservative as she had to be to get through the litmus tests.  The bad thing about these positions is that you only typically make the news when the crude hits the fan and someone is mad at you, not when you bring people together to make a wise decision.  

    • it's a big department

      and I am curious to see which programs she will highlight and spend political capital promoting. For instance, House Republicans want to save money by axing the anti-smoking PR campaign “Just Eliminate Lies,” which is an IDPH program. Will Miller-Meeks try to discourage that, or will she go along with the budget cutting?

      Republicans have also questioned the cost associated with some lead testing and remediation programs. Will they try to cut those back, and if so how will MMM and the Branstad administration respond?

      • Good questions

        If I had to select between those two programs then I would probably cut the PR campaign than I would the lead testing, but I doubt its an either/or proposition.  

        • they need to cut a lot

          They are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars cut from the current-year budget, the year that will be half over by the time the legislature is in session. They will need to eliminate a lot of programs to pay for the goodies they want.  

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