Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget director is moving to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, where she will take a new top-level job coordinating the agency’s health division.
Jamie Shuster will become DHEC’s director of public health, according to The Associated Press and an email from Shuster obtained by The State newspaper.
DHEC Commissioner Catherine Templeton told The AP that she chose Shuster for the new post to help ensure agency health goals are implemented at the local level. Templeton said she also is considering candidates for a similar job in DHEC’s environmental division, according to The Associated Press.
It was unclear Tuesday how Templeton’s plans would affect top staff members or whether those plans involve wholesale restructuring at DHEC, a sprawling agency that often is criticized for its decisions. The department oversees both public health and environmental protection. Its duties include issuing pollution permits for industry and licensing hospitals.
DHEC, one of South Carolina’s largest agencies with about 3,500 employees, faces change as Haley continues to put her stamp on state government in the wake of her 2010 election. The governor, who picked Templeton to run DHEC, has said she wants the agency to be more efficient and business-friendly.
The choice of Shuster is Templeton’s first major personnel decision since being confirmed last month by the state Senate. Shuster is expected to start this week.
Shuster, 31, is a former employee with the S.C. Policy Council, a conservative think tank that favors limited government. She is a former North Carolina resident who has a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.
At DHEC, Shuster will be paid about $25,000 more than she was making at the governor’s office. The new post at DHEC pays about $90,000.
Templeton did not return telephone calls Tuesday afternoon to The State, but told The AP that Shuster approached her about creating the position.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Templeton said. Templeton expressed concern that local health departments were not kept up to standard.
“We need to decide as a state what it is we’re going to prioritize and have some accountability,” Templeton said of the agency. “It’s too big. You need to take people in there to help create efficiencies.”
The governor’s office released a statement Tuesday afternoon praising Shuster’s work for Haley.
“Jamie has been a huge part of the successes we’ve shared since coming into office,” according to the statement. “She’s a talented and exceptionally bright policy mind and DHEC will be extremely well served by having her.”
Attempts to reach Shuster were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon. But an email to some state officials from Shuster announcing her plans said she was “truly thankful to Gov. Haley for giving me the opportunity to work in her office.”