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Ron DeSantis still looking for health secretary

DeSantis will name a secretary when he “finds the right person.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis still hasn’t found the doctor he’s looking for.

The governor, who took office Jan. 8, told reporters on Tuesday that he is continuing to interview candidates to lead the Florida Department of Health.

The secretary of the department must be a physician and doubles as the state surgeon general.

“I’ve interviewed some good candidates, but at the end of the day it’s a dual role,” DeSantis said when asked about the vacant post. “You’ve got to be an administrator, but then you’re also the state surgeon general.

“I think you have to be able to carry a public message to people and be somebody with stature that folks are going to respect and listen to.”

With a $2.95 billion budget, the Department of Health is the third largest health-related agency, behind the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families, which have $29.2 billion and $3.18 billion budgets, respectively.

But the health department is the largest health care agency — and the second largest agency in the state — when measured by numbers of employees, with more than 13,400 funded positions this year.

The department has numerous roles, including ensuring public health, administering health programs for medically complex children and regulating health-care professionals.

The department also administers the state’s medical-marijuana laws, and DeSantis has made clear he wants the Legislature to revisit some of those laws, including a ban on smoking medical marijuana.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes recently filed a bill that would lift that ban, which has been ruled unconstitutional in circuit court.

The News Service of Florida reported that DeSantis interviewed Bob Brooks, a former Department of Health secretary and state lawmaker, for the secretary post in mid-December.

Asked Tuesday when he’d name a secretary, DeSantis said: “When I find the right person. …. Hopefully soon but I don’t have anything to announce right now.”

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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