Secretary Lee Norman has stepped down from Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration after leading the Kansas Department of Health and Environment through the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement released Friday by the governor’s office, Norman thanked Kelly for the “privilege of serving the people of Kansas” and said he was proud of all KDHE staff members.

“For the last two years, they have gone above and beyond facing unimaginable circumstances to create and execute the framework of the Kansas’ COVID-19 response strategy,” Norman said. “While leaving was not an easy decision, I have no doubt that the leadership will maintain a seamless continuity of operations as the agency continues its transition from crisis response to steady state.”

Deputy Secretary Ashley Goss will serve as acting secretary until a permanent candidate is appointed. Ximena Garcia will serve as the acting state health officer and Medicaid medical director. Garcia is currently a senior adviser to the governor on COVID-19 vaccine equity.

Kelly, in a news release, thanked Norman for his service “and particularly for his leadership and his tireless efforts to fight this unprecedented pandemic.”

“From the first confirmed case until today, Dr. Norman has played a vital role within this administration to provide guidance and help steer our state’s response to the virus,” Kelly said. “His and his team’s work to keep Kansans safe during this once-in-a-century public health crisis has cemented his place as the most consequential Secretary of Health and Environment in Kansas history.”

Norman had been the KDHE secretary since Kelly took office in 2019. He led the COVID-19 response and oversaw the agency’s divisions on health, environment and health finance.

Before joining the Kelly administration, Norman was a family physician, flight surgeon and combat medicine instructor in the U.S. Air Force, and spent time as the chief medical officer of two different hospital systems.

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