Gov. DeSantis announces return of Michelle Branham to Elder Affairs agency
Ron DeSantis

DeSantis 2
Half of DeSantis' health care-related agency heads for his second term have been named.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration in his second term continues to take shape, with the Governor announcing Michelle Branham will return as the Secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA).

The Governor made the announcement on Twitter, which has become the go-to outlet for him to proclaim the comings and goings of agency Secretaries.

Prior to heading the agency for nine years, she served as the Vice President of Public Policy for the Alzheimer’s Association. In that capacity, she served as Chair for the state’s Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee and was an advisory member for the State Plan on Aging Task Force. DeSantis initially appointed Branham as DOEA Secretary last December.

DOEA is one of six health care-related agencies in the Florida government and it also is one of the smallest. With a nearly $350 million budget in the current fiscal year, it is the second smallest health care agency when measured by total operating budget behind the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which has a $185 million-plus budget.

DOEA is the smallest health care agency when measured by number of employees, with just 404 staff positions. DOEA was borne from a constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 1988, but did not formally begin operations until 1992 under then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, who appointed Bentley Lipscomb the first Secretary.

The agency houses the Office of Public & Professional Guardians, which appoints public guardians to provide guardianship services for poor people who have no willing family or friends to serve in that capacity.

With the announcement that Branham will return to the DOEA, DeSantis has cemented half of his health care agency Secretaries. DeSantis had previously announced that state Surgeon General and Department of Health Secretary Joseph Ladapo would return for a second term.

So will Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Shevaun Harris.

Meanwhile, the Governor announced on Twitter that long-time state employee and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Simone Marstiller would not serve in his second administration. While DeSantis hasn’t made announced who will replace Marstiller, informed sources tell Florida Politics that Marstiller’s current Chief of Staff, Jason C. Weida, is the front-runner for the post.

To date, there’s been no decision on leadership for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) or the VA.

Barbara Palmer currently serves as the director of APD, a position she also held in former Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration. Meanwhile, the VA is run by James S. Hartsell.

It is not uncommon for there to be turnover in administration after elections. But turnover is expected to be higher than usual, as some agency heads choose to leave their positions in order to avoid being impacted by a new lobbying ban.

Approved by the voters in 2018, high-ranking officials such as agency Secretaries and elected politicians will be precluded from lobbying the Legislature and the executive branch of government for six years.

Currently, there is no ban on former agency Secretaries from lobbying the Legislature after they retire. But there is a two-year ban on lobbying the executive agencies and Governor’s Office.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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