Kansas governor names acting secretary of state health and environment agency

TOPEKA — Governor Laura Kelly on Monday named a health care administrator to serve as secretary at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Janet Stanek, who has served as director of the state employee health benefits program since September 2020, will work as KDHE secretary on an interim basis pending confirmation proceedings in the Kansas Senate. She replaced Lee Norman, who resigned as KDHE secretary earlier in November after having held the post since Kelly took office in January 2019.

Kelly said Stanek would be tasked with 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 connections she has established in the Kansas medical community, I have no doubt that she will be able to take on this role immediately and continue the vital work of the agency,” the Democratic governor said.

Stanek has held senior healthcare positions for the past 35 years in Kansas, Pennsylvania and New York. In addition to the state health program in Kansas, she worked at Stormont Vail Health in Topeka for 21 years. She was chief operating officer and senior vice president at Stormont Vail.

Stanek, also chair of the board of the Kansas Health Institute, said she looked forward to working with her KDHE colleagues.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the agency has done an outstanding job helping to lead the state’s response to this once-in-a-century crisis,” she said.

Stanek received a master’s degree from Alfred University in New York and a bachelor’s degree in health information management from the Polytechnic Institute of the State University of New York in Utica, New York.

On November 19, Norman abruptly left KDHE after months of dialogue with Kelly administration officials over a possible leadership change within the agency. Norman’s public profile had been diminished throughout 2021 after a clash with Kelly’s chief of staff.

Kelly marked Norman’s exit by noting the “vital role” he has played in the administration’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic. She had appointed Ashley Goss, deputy secretary of the KDHE, to serve as acting secretary.

Kelly said Ximena Garcia, a physician who has advised the governor on immunization issues, will serve as the state’s acting health officer and medical director for Medicaid.