Gov. Reynolds Hires New Iowa DHS Director, House Democrats Respond

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Just a few months following Former DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven’s resignation, Governor Kim Reynolds named her pick to lead the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Governor Reynolds announced Thursday morning she will appoint Kelley Kennedy Garcia as the new head of DHS.

Garcia is the current Deputy Executive Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Reynolds said she looked at 30 to 40 applicants before deciding on Garcia.

She said Garcia is an experienced social service leader and has a passion for helping people.

“That's why I hired her because I just felt very comfortable and excited about the things that she talked about and about her approach, how she goes about it. We have phenomenal state employees that are working in the Department of Health and Human Services and that is a tough agency and through all of this, they have kept their eye on the ball and they've continued to serve Iowans. And I'm so appreciative and respectful to all that they've been able to do and I think this is an opportunity to work, for somebody to come in and to lead this agency with that kind of a mindset,” Reynolds said.

Garcia replaces ousted Director Foxhoven, who last month filed a multi-million dollar claim against the state and the governor for lost wages.

Even with the new appointment, house democrats said they still want answers about Foxhoven’s sudden resignation and the new direction Reynolds has talked about.

"There'll always be controversy, things will always be unsettled until we find out why Jerry Foxhoven was fired, but I think with some of the questions that we have about the privatization of Medicaid and some of the concerns we have, we can call a government oversight meeting with the new director and ask her some of these questions and how she plans to handle it. And hopefully she'll be able to tell us what this new direction is," State Representative Ruth Ann Gaines, (D) Des Moines, said.

Gaines said she also hopes the new director will take a look at some of the issues surrounding the privatization of Medicaid.

“I think that the new director has a responsibility to look at all the issues that have plagued us since the privatization of Medicaid, and again with fresh eyes, and possibly a new direction will be able to solve some of the problems, and to make the transition of the new MCO, very very smooth and once again Iowans will be getting the health care that they truly need and deserve,” Gaines said.

When Reynolds was asked about her idea of a new direction here is her response:

“I don't believe the agency is where it should be. So I think there are opportunities for us to do things better. When we're more efficient, when we're utilizing innovation and technology and collaboration. I think we need to be giving our employees the tools that they need to provide those services to Iowans. So I'm not going to be prescriptive on do this, do this, do this. I'm bringing her expertise into the department, somebody from outside that can lift the hood and take a look at what's what's currently being done, and look for opportunities to do that more efficiently and more effectively from a collaborative standpoint. So I think we can do more, I think we can do better. She talked about what she did in her various roles and I think that fits really well with the team approach and what we're looking for moving forward.”

Garcia is scheduled to start Nov. 1 and her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate.

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