LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced Dannette R. Smith as the next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Her appointment comes at the conclusion of a national search for a customer-oriented leader for the agency, which commenced in September 2018.
“Dannette is the customer-oriented, results-driven leader Nebraska needs for the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Governor Ricketts. “Her focus on measurable results and experience with strategic planning will build on the great work the agency has been doing to deliver a higher level of service. The DHHS team has been making great progress, and I look forward to working with Dannette as we continue to move the agency forward in the coming years.”
Smith has more than 25 years of executive leadership experience in large, complex organizations and most recently served as the Director of the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services since 2013. During her tenure at Virginia Beach, she led several initiatives including:
- Integrating Behavioral Health and Developmental Services with the Department of Social Services to create a seamless organizational structure to enhance service delivery.
- Developing an integrated healthcare system for children entering the child welfare system.
- Focusing on data-driven results with the creation of a data dashboard that measures the distribution and processing of SNAP and Medicaid benefits.
- Collaborating with law enforcement to provide a first responder approach to Behavioral Health Services in the community.
“I want to thank Governor Ricketts for this opportunity to serve the people of Nebraska,” said Smith. “I look forward to collaborating with the entire team to move the agency forward to fulfill our mission of helping people live better lives.”
Smith has state, regional, and municipal experience. She has served as Director of the Seattle Department of Human Services where she oversaw the development of the agency’s first strategic plan. She has also served as the Director of the Fulton County Department of Children and Family Services in Georgia and the Division Director of Youth and Family Services for the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services in North Carolina.
Smith holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Under the auspices of the Child Welfare League of America, she participated in a child welfare leadership program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She also attended the County Administration Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Smith is a member of the Board of Directors for ATTACH (the Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Children); the Hampton Roads Early Childhood Initiative Minus 9-5; BEACH Governing Board (Bringing an End to All City Homelessness); and WISH (Women Invested in Social Change).
Over the past four years, Governor Ricketts has successfully worked to transform DHHS with business plans that have led to significant changes at the agency including among other successes:
- Creating a new System of Care to coordinate mental healthcare for children and families.
- Fixing the state’s enrollment call centers for benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid.
- Cutting red tape for families applying for developmental disabilities services.
- Launching Heritage Health to better coordinate Medicaid services.
- Delivering licenses more quickly for key professions such as nurses.
Smith starts February 25, 2019. Her salary will be $220,000.
The five divisions of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services provide critical services to Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens.
The appointment follows CEO Dr. Courtney Phillips, who departed from the State of Nebraska to serve Governor Greg Abbott of Texas as Executive Commissioner for Texas Health and Human Services Commission.