David Cook is departing as head of Georgia’s largest health agency to become secretary of the state Senate.
Cook has served as commissioner of the Department of Community Health since January 2011. Before then, he had been executive director of the Medical Association of Georgia.
He will be replaced by attorney Clyde Reese, who is currently commissioner of the Department of Human Services. This will be Reese’s second time as Community Health commissioner, because he was Cook’s predecessor in the office.
In turn, Keith Horton, deputy director of the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, will replace Reese at Human Services. Both Horton and Reese will take office July 1, if approved by the agencies’ boards, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday.
Horton retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2006, and has held various positions at Human Services. The agency oversees aging, child welfare and child support services, and public assistance programs that includes the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), food stamps and Medicaid eligibility.
Cook’s departure has been rumored for weeks. As commissioner, he presided over a $12 billion budget and the health care of more than 2 million Georgians, including those on Medicaid and PeachCare and members of the state employees health plan.
The State Health Benefit Plan’s deficit has shrunk under Cook’s tenure, and Medicaid’s budget was recently shored up through passage of a bill that will facilitate renewal of the state hospital provider fee.
Cook has longstanding ties to Gov. Deal. He worked for him when Deal was a state senator and was his chief of staff when Deal was a U.S. congressman.
As secretary of the state Senate, Cook will serve as an official administrative officer and unofficial parliamentarian of the chamber. Cook will also assist with Senate Rules updates and production, and will serve as a member of the Senate Administrative Affairs Committee and the Legislative Services Committee.
Cook, an attorney, will succeed the retiring Bob Ewing.
“David Cook is a veteran of the Senate and began his career working as an aide in the secretary of the Senate’s office, in addition to serving as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer (R-Duluth) in a statement. “I have every confidence in him, and I know that he will do an outstanding job as secretary of the Senate.”