AR Briefly

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders taps interim Arkansas health secretary to lead the department

By: - August 8, 2023 2:57 pm
Side view of Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Side view of Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday appointed Renee Mallory, the interim secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, to lead the department permanently.

Mallory is a registered nurse who has been at the Health Department since 1988, and her roles have included chief of staff and deputy director, according to the press release announcing her appointment. 

Renee Mallory, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health
Renee Mallory, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health

“She is the highly qualified, experienced leader we need at the helm as we work together to improve and protect the health of all Arkansans,” Sanders said in the press release.

Mallory became the Health Department’s interim secretary in May 2022 when former Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed her to succeed Jose Romero, who left Arkansas for a role with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Romero held the dual role of Health Department secretary and director. Hutchinson appointed epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha, the department’s chief medical officer at the time, as department director when he appointed Mallory as interim secretary, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Before the Health Department, Mallory worked at Twin Rivers Medical Center, which is now Baptist Medical Center’s Arkadelphia location, and Baptist Home Health and Hospice.

She is a native of Pike County and lives in Ferndale.

“I look forward to continuing to be a part of the extraordinary work being done in our state,” Mallory said in a statement. “I am also thankful to be leading an organization with employees who are committed to providing needed services to the people of Arkansas in the best and most efficient way possible.”

Sanders has now appointed a permanent leader to every department in her cabinet since she was elected in November.

The only current interim department secretary is Shea Lewis, who took over the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism after Mike Mills’ departure in June. Mills had been one of Sanders’ first cabinet picks in December.

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.