DES MOINES, Iowa – The former head of human services agencies in Maine and Oregon was named Tuesday to head the Iowa Department of Human Services, and a Drake University nursing instructor was named to lead the Department of Public Health.
Kevin W. Concannon, a 62-year-old social worker who led the Oregon DHS from 1987 to 1995 and the Maine department from 1995 until this year, will take charge of Iowa’s largest state agency.
DHS has about 5,000 employees and serves about 650,000 Iowans a year.
Concannon’s experience as commissioner of the Maine Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation also was an asset when he was considered for the Iowa job, said Lt. Gov. Sally Pedersen.
“As we work to expand access to quality community living options for people with disabilities, and work to strengthen our long-term care systems, we are fortunate to have Kevin Concannon working with us,” she said.
Gov. Tom Vilsack said Concannon has a proven track record of increasing federal funding in Maine.
“He has the leadership skills and the innovative ideas needed to get results for Iowa,” Vilsack said.
Concannon, who will earn $126,000 a year, replaces Jessie K. Rasmussen, who stepped down in January.
Rasmussen was embroiled in a number of controversies during her four years of running the agency including issues involving protection of children after some high-profile child abuse cases. She was one of six department heads Vilsack fired after his first term in office.
Concannon said providing for the safety of children is one of the most serious obligations of government. He said his training as a social worker and experience dealing with such issues for 16 years has prepared him for “one of the areas that I take most seriously.”
“It is a matter of supporting the judgment of caseworkers and working with the courts, the families and various players in the child welfare system,” Concannon said. “It is one of the most serious responsibilities I will be assuming in this department and I accept it readily.”
Newell Augur, director of legislative and public affairs for the Maine agency, said Concannon was well-respected by the department’s 2,700 employees.
“Folks in Iowa can be assured that they now have as the director of their human services someone who has shown not only a great deal of foresight in dealing with the problems that confront the vulnerable people of your state but who is also a tireless advocate for the rights of persons in need,” Augur said.
Mary Mincer Hansen, 55, an assistant nursing professor at Drake and president of the Iowa Public Health Foundation, will earn $118,000 as head of the public health department.
Both appointments require Senate confirmation.