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DHS’ deputy secretary to retire next week

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk speaks at a COVID-19 news conference on August 12,...
DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk speaks at a COVID-19 news conference on August 12, 2021.(DHS via YouTube)
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 1:04 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - One of the key individuals in Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is stepping down later this month. On Friday, the Dept. of Health Services announced Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk will retire next week.

“It has been an incredible honor to serve in the role of Deputy Secretary. I am especially proud of the way our staff across DHS and all of state government came together to protect the people of Wisconsin during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Van Dijk said in a statement released by the Evers Administration.

Willems Van Dijk is the highest-ranked state health official to hold her position throughout the battle against COVID-19. Following the departure of former Interim Secretary Andrea Palm to join the Biden Administration earlier this year, she also stepped up to be the face of DHS in many of its COVID-19 briefings.

“Julie’s been an essential part of our state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is not an overstatement to say her work and leadership have saved lives,” Evers said, calling her “the embodiment of public service.”

In Evers’ statement, DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake complimented Willems Van Dijk as being able to both see the big picture and to understand data at a granular level.

“She has constantly raised the bar on the quality of our work, including her dedication to data transparency and data-driven policies,” Timberlake continued. “I am lucky to have had the pleasure of working alongside her.”

Willems Van Dijk was tapped for the agency’s number two position in 2019. Her last day will be next Friday, September 10.

In announcing Willems Van Dijk’s retirement, Evers also named the person who fill her shoes, Deb Stanbridge, who has been the executive director of the state’s alternative care facility at State Fair Park.

“Deb has been a great partner to our state throughout the pandemic, running our Alternate Care Facility, which ensured folks had access to care when our hospitals were overwhelmed and helping continue a robust COVID-19 pandemic response,” Evers said.

According to Evers’ Office, Stanbridge’s career has been focused on the strategic direction and operational management of hospitals. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

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