Nixon picks lawmaker to lead Missouri Health Department

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 | 2:30 p.m. CST; updated 2:48 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 7, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Incoming Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday picked an outgoing state House member to lead the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Margaret Donnelly, 54, of Richmond Heights, was picked to join Nixon's Cabinet on Wednesday, just before lawmakers were sworn in and Donnelly officially left the state legislature.

Donnelly, a family practice lawyer who also has been a social worker, was elected to the House in 2002 and was a key Democratic member of the chamber's budget committee.

But instead of running for a fourth term, Donnelly ran to succeed Nixon as attorney general. She finished a close second in a bitter four-way, Democratic attorney general primary in August.

Nixon, in a written statement announcing the selection, cited Donnelly's political and legal experience.

"Ensuring the health safety and welfare of Missouri families and senior citizens is a top priority for my administration, and Margaret Donnelly is exactly the right person to take on this vital position," Nixon said.

The Health Department is in charge of public health issues and regulating nursing homes and other senior services. Donnelly said that means the department's responsibilities affect everyone in the state.

"We'll work tirelessly every day to ensure that our state is a healthy, safe place for all Missourians," she said.

Since November, Donnelly has been working with Nixon's gubernatorial transition team. Donnelly worked with Jeff Harris, a fellow outgoing House member and unsuccessful attorney general candidate, to lead the personnel search for the Department of Natural Resources and conduct a review focused on making state agencies efficient and effective.

Nixon, who takes office Monday, has not yet to announced who will lead the Department of Natural Resources.


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