Andrea Palm (left) has been chosen to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Biden Administration. Gov. Tony Evers chose Karen Timberlake to replace Palm. (Contributed)

Evers loses Palm to Biden Administration, names new state DHS secretary

By Patrick Lynn

Wisconsin DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm is headed to the White House.

Palm was nominated by Gov. Tony Evers to head the state’s department of health services in 2019. She was never confirmed by the state senate and therefore was known as the department’s secretary-designee.

Now, Palm has been chosen as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Biden Administration. She leaves her state role on Jan. 20.

Evers announced on Monday that today Karen Timberlake, DHS secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus response, will serve as DHS interim secretary. Timberlake will officially start at the DHS on Jan. 25.

In a press statement on Jan. 18, Evers called Palm a “public servant through and through—she’s been a critical part of our administration and a consummate professional who has done an extraordinary job helping lead our state during an unprecedented public health crisis.”

Timberlake brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in public health, healthcare, and healthcare systems that Evers said would be “critical” as the state continues distributing the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our response to this pandemic and our vaccine distribution program will continue under the leadership of Karen and given her expertise and familiarity with the department, I have no doubts she will be able to hit the ground running,” Evers said.

Timberlake was most recently a partner at Michael Best Strategies, LLC, in Wisconsin, advising in areas of public health, healthcare delivery, and healthy community investments as well as business development strategies. Prior to that, she was the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute Director and an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Timberlake also served during former Gov. Doyle’s administration as the director of the Office of State Employment Relations before being appointed as deputy health secretary at DHS in mid-2007 and eventually serving as DHS secretary in 2008 where she served for the remainder of former Gov. Doyle’s tenure.

Timberlake said among the top priorities for the DHS will be “advocating to receive Wisconsin’s fair share of vaccines from the federal government, distributing vaccines out across the state, and getting shots in arms as quickly as possible while we work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”