Mike Ceballos will take control of the Wyoming Department of Health after current director Tom Forslund retires in the coming weeks, Gov. Mark Gordon told media Thursday.
Ceballos was a 2014 Democratic candidate for state superintendent and lost to current schools chief Jillian Balow. He worked for Qwest Communications, a telecommunications company that operated primarily in the West, for 13 years, according to his LinkedIn page.
In a press conference, Gordon praised Ceballos’ administrative and IT experience and his “ability and interest” in learning more.
Ceballos will take over for Forslund, who’s been director since 2011, when he joined former Gov. Matt Mead’s administration after managing the City of Casper. In a note to staff Monday, Forslund announced he was retiring and would step down after the legislative session ends.
The new director will take over a department facing a slew of health challenges. Forlsund told the Star-Tribune late last year that the state’s elderly population — one of the most rapidly aging in the nation — was his top priority. The number of Wyomingites who will need long-term care is expected to balloon over the course of the next decade, driving state Medicaid costs up and demanding more community-based services.
Forlsund also ticked off other health concerns — high rates of smoking, drinking and suicide — and low access to care as other issues facing the Gordon administration.
Gordon told media Thursday that he was considering having the state Department of Family Services — which is also led by Forslund — “stand alone” as a separate agency.
Gordon’s administration announced several other appointments in Thursday’s press conference, while noting that a number of key vacancies remain.
Guy Cameron, the state’s Director of Homeland Security, recently indicated he would retire and will be replaced by Lynn Budd, the department’s security unit chief. Gordon said she was well-versed in the agency’s operations and already had well-established connections with the commissioners throughout the state. Joining her on the staff as Deputy Director will be Leland Christensen, a former state senator who most recently ran for state treasurer.
Todd Parfitt will return to helm the Department of Environmental Quality, as will Dan Noble, who was appointed to helm the state Department of Revenue by Gov. Matt Mead in 2013. Doug Miyamoto will return as director of the Department of Agriculture.
“We are taking our time trying to find the best people we can for each of these appointments,” Gordon said. “I feel very strongly about each of these individuals, and we’ll have some more in the coming weeks.”
With Cameron’s replacement secured, Gordon is now looking to find a replacement after the retirement of state engineer Pat Tyrell, which he is still working on vetting.
One interesting kink in the process, however, could be presented by a new bill sponsored by the state’s Select Water Committee, HB47, which would change the Senate confirmation process for appointees negotiating water compacts for the state, a role often taken on by the state engineer.
Though Gordon said he was aware of the bill and was willing to discuss it, he was skeptical that such a bill was necessary.
“In some cases, the processes that we have in place are effective — they’ve worked well over the years and where you end up with confirmations that can kind of cludge up the works and make things difficult,” he said. “I guess as an overarching point of view from this administration I’d like to make government more efficient, leaner, able to act more quickly.”
“We’re open to consultation with the legislature on all these topics, but I think sometimes we build processes that don’t do that,” he added. “To my thinking, I’m not sure that bill is necessary, but I’m certainly willing to listen.”