RALEIGH, N.C. — Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services who quickly became the public face of North Carolina's response to COVID-19, is stepping down, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday.
Cohen became one of the most recognizable faces in North Carolina while leading news conferences updating case counts, vaccination rates and other key data during the pandemic. Cooper said Cohen plans to spend time with her family while exploring new opportunities to carry on her work improving the health and well-being of communities.
"It's been a wonderful five years," Cohen said. "I am so honored that I had this opportunity to lead this state, I think we've accomplished so much beyond COVID. A bit of rest and recovery is in store for me as I think about my next opportunity."
Cohen said Tuesday there wasn't a single moment that led to her decision, and she's confident DHHS can pick up where she's leaving off at the end of the year.
When asked about her next step, Cohen said she doesn't know where she will wind up next.
"I don't know the next steps," she said. "I and my family have fallen in love with North Carolina. We love it here, I hope we'll stay here."
Cooper announced that Kody H. Kinsley, a Wilmington native, will replace Cohen as DHHS secretary, effective Jan. 1. Kinsley currently serves as DHHS Chief Deputy Secretary. In a statement, Cooper said Kinsley will be the first openly gay cabinet secretary in North Carolina history.
“Mandy Cohen has shown extraordinary leadership during her tenure and she has worked every day during this pandemic to help keep North Carolinians healthy and safe,” Cooper said. “We are stronger because of her efforts and I am enormously grateful for her service. She has built a remarkable team of talented people including Kody Kinsley, and I know he will continue the strong legacy of competence, effectiveness and efficiency as he takes over as Secretary.”
Cohen was first appointed to her role by Cooper in January of 2017. She has led the state's response to COVID-19 and was Cooper's chief adviser and strategist on beating the pandemic.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve this state at such an important moment in history,” Cohen said. “I am grateful for Governor Cooper’s leadership, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished to improve the health and well-being of the state over the last five years. There is much work still to do, and I am so pleased the Governor selected Kody Kinsley to take the baton to run the next leg of this race.”
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