Inside the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)
Three days after the previous secretary of the state Department of Health retired, Gov. Kristi Noem has appointed Melissa Magstadt to lead the department, according to a Thursday news release from the governor’s office.
Magstadt’s appointment will be effective on the next state work day, which is Tuesday.
“Melissa has proven her ability to provide innovative and cost-effective health care to the people of South Dakota,” Noem said in the news release. “She will bring a fresh perspective to the department.”
The governor’s office announced the retirement of the previous secretary, Joan Adam, on Monday in a news release. That was three days after a conservative news outlet reported the Department of Health had suddenly canceled a contract to provide federal grant funding to The Transformation Project, a transgender advocacy group in Sioux Falls.
Although a letter from the Department of Health’s deputy secretary cites numerous alleged contract violations to justify the cancellation (allegations that The Transformation Project denies), Noem spokesman Ian Fury provided a statement to The Daily Signal associating the group with “radical ideologies.”
The Transformation Project has since said it plans to sue the state.
The Thursday news release about Magstadt said she is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (ARPN) and a co-owner of Quick Care SD, an organization that provides health care access across eastern South Dakota. She also owns an integrated medicine practice called SG Essentials in both Watertown and Pierre. Noem’s office did not immediately respond to a Searchlight question about whether Magstadt would leave her businesses while working for the state.
Noem said in the release that South Dakota has “set an example for the nation over the past several years by trusting our people to exercise personal responsibility over their health care decisions.”
“Melissa will advance that vision for the people of South Dakota,” Noem added.
Magstadt served in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 2011 to 2014 and was a member of the House Committee on Health and Human Services. She has been involved in South Dakota health care for more than 30 years.
“South Dakota should be on the forefront of supporting proactive quality of care for our people,” Magstadt said in the release. “Our state has unique health challenges, which vary from our rural communities to our big cities. We can tackle these challenges by focusing on an innovative, forward-looking approach to public health, rather than simply reacting to difficulties.”
Magstadt has a master’s in science from South Dakota State University with a focus as a family nurse practitioner, according to the governor’s office, and a master’s in business administration from Mount Marty University. She is a graduate of the Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute at the University of Nebraska and a fellow at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrated Medicine.
Magstadt and her family live in the Castlewood and Watertown area, where Noem grew up. Magstadt was born and raised in South Dakota, the governor’s office said.
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