Gov. Kim Reynolds and Kelly Kennedy Garcia

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that she will appoint Kelly Kennedy Garcia, currently deputy executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). Garcia will be relocating from Austin, Texas and begins her new role on Nov. 1.

“Kelly Garcia is an experienced social service leader and team builder with a passion for helping people and leading change,” said Gov. Reynolds. “For so many Iowans, DHS provides the critical services, protection and support they need to live and thrive. Kelly brings a depth of experience in a large-scale, high-impact government agency and will serve Iowa’s families and communities well in this vital role.”

In her current role, Garcia oversees the Health, Developmental and Independence Services (HDIS) department in Texas, which spans more than 40 client service programs and support functions with more than 700 employees and a $1.4 billion budget. She served in a number of other senior level human services roles, including deputy chief for the Office of Programs and Services, which includes oversight of Medicaid, eligibility operations, behavioral and mental health.

“To meet the ambitious goals Gov. Reynolds has set out for serving Iowa’s most vulnerable populations, it’s going to take a strong team effort at DHS and throughout the state,” said Garcia. “I look forward to hitting the ground running and building relationships within our own team and across the state to help Iowa families succeed.”

“Kelly has been a masterful problem solver and a positive force for health and human services in Texas,” said Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, executive commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services. “Her energy and expertise will be a true asset to the people of Iowa. She puts her heart into everything she does, and Texas wishes her all the best.” 

Gov. Reynolds added that Garcia’s energy and experience in working with the Legislature, executive branch policy goal setting, stakeholder development, management and system process improvement will make her an effective leader for DHS. 

“I want to thank Interim Director Gerd Clabaugh, the DHS leadership team and the hard working men and women of DHS on their work over the last few months,” added Reynolds. “They’ve done a remarkable job of keeping the focus on serving the clients of DHS during this transition.”

Before joining Texas HHS in 2013, Garcia served as a project manager and senior analyst at the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission and a senior advisor to Gov. Rick Perry. She has a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in public service and administration from Texas A&M University.

Garcia’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate.

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