Gov. Mike Pence appoints state social services, agriculture leaders

Debra Minott, Gina Sheets selected

INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mike Pence has chosen an expert in health care law and regulation who once worked in former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration as his first secretary of Indiana’s human services agency.

Debra F. Minott, who previously worked as Daniels’ state personnel director, will lead the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Pence announced at a news conference Thursday.

She is leaving her job as vice president and associate general counsel at Batesville, Ind.-based medical device manufacturer Hill-Rom. Minott has also worked for Eli Lilly and Co., Guidant Corp., Essex International Inc. and CarDon and Associates, Inc.

“Debra Minott has the background, experience in health care and compassionate heart to ensure Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration meets the needs of Indiana's most vulnerable,” Pence said.

Minott takes over the state's largest agency, with more than 5,000 employees. She indicated she has some ideas for improvement but isn't saying exactly what at this point.

"I know from my days as state personnel director it's a huge agency," she said. "There are lots of positives and lots of places for improvement. But it's too early for me to say at this point."

She will helm an agency that in recent years botched a 10-year, $1.4 billion deal with IBM Corp. to modernize the state’s delivery of Medicaid and food stamps, but then launched a “hybrid” effort combining the computerized upgrades of the modernization effort with the in-person touch of old county agency offices and has since seen better timeliness and accuracy rates.

Pence acknowledged the troubles FSSA had during the Daniels Administration, he said that's all over now.
"Frankly, over the last year, the results have been very positive," Pence said. "Error rates in food stamps have been cut in half, timeliness of TANF decisions has doubled and our work participation rates among the TANF population have been growing recently."

The FSSA will also handle the state’s role in implementing President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Since Indiana opted not to set up its own insurance exchange, instead leaving that task to the federal government, that role could be limited. Pence said he’s leaving decisions on whether to expand Medicaid up to the state legislature.

Pence on Thursday also named Gina Sheets the state’s secretary of agriculture. She had most recently worked as the Indiana Department of Agriculture’s director of economic development and international trade.

Sheets said her emphasis will be on creating an equitable tax structure for Indiana farmers and opening up more opportunities for food exports.

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