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State health officer speaks out against bill placing 4-year terms on agency heads and board members

State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney is speaking out against Senate Bill 2799, which would place four-year terms on not only agency heads but also members of government oversight boards.

Edney said during an appearance on The Gallo Show that the legislation – which quietly and overwhelmingly passed the Senate last month and now awaits further action in the House – would have a negative impact if signed into law.

“We have enough things in government that are broken and let’s don’t mess with the things that are not broken,” Edney pleaded.

Edney became Mississippi’s highest-ranking medical official in 2022 after taking over for Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who stepped down following the crux of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the interview, Edney admitted that the bill won’t affect him personally as he plans to retire before its planned implementation in 2028. However, if a four-year term was in place before he was offered the job, he probably would not have accepted.

His rationale for fighting against the legislation is that a new board and a new agency head, whether it be the Board of Health and the Department of Health or another pair of intertwined entities, is a bad recipe for long-term governmental sustainability. He argued that the most qualified candidates will reject agency positions if they are only guaranteed a minimum four years at the helm.

“When I came in as the new state health officer almost 18 months ago, I had a seasoned board that I could lean on, and my board chair was well-experienced. We walked through the first year together. If you have a brand-new state health officer and a brand-new Board of Health, that can be tricky,” Edney said.

“It would have been very hard for me to agree to leave private practice and take the income reduction with a very limited term and also having to be confirmed by the Senate and not knowing if that confirmation is going to be successful like you saw with the Board of Education recently. It makes you think two or three times before leaving the private sector.”


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