TOPEKA (KSNT) – Gov. Laura Kelly named the new secretary for Kansas’ Department of Health and Environment Monday.

Most recently the Director of the State Employee Health Benefits Program, the governor said Janet Stanek will take the place of Dr. Lee Norman in the position. Stanek will now serve in the health secretary’s role in an acting capacity until the Kansas Senate confirms her as the new head of the agency.

Dr. Lee Norman joins Gov. Laura Kelly for a press conference giving an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former KDHE secretary drew attention during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and was perceived as the state’s leading expert on the issue. Norman commonly joined Kelly for weekly press conferences with updates on the statewide situation regarding the virus’s spread, and later vaccine rollout.

Stanek received high praise from the governor as Kelly welcomed her into the new role.

“With Janet’s decades of experience as well as the relationships she has built across the medical community in Kansas, I have no doubt that she will be able to step into this role immediately and continue the agency’s critical work,’ Kelly said.

Stanek’s first comments after taking the position indicated she is preparing to carry the torch with Norman’s previous efforts against COVID-19.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the agency has done a remarkable job helping lead the state’s response to this once-in-a-century crisis. I look forward to working with the entire KDHE team to build on their outstanding work.”

Stanek previously spent 21 years at Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, acting as the hospital’s chief operating officer and senior vice president, according to the governor. She holds a graduate certificate from Thomas Jefferson University, an MBA from Alfred University and a Bachelor of Science degree in health information management from the State University of New York Polytechnic Insitute.

Norman stepped down from the position Nov. 19, alongside Dr. Marci Nielsen, the Chief COVID-19 Advisor for Kansas.