A veteran Republican lawmaker will lead the Missouri Department of Revenue and a long-time administrator in state government will take over the Department of Mental Health, Gov. Mike Parson announced Wednesday.
State Rep. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, brings corporate management experience that will help him lead the state’s tax collecting agency, Parson said.
Wallingford is serving his second term in the Missouri House. He first won election to the lower chamber in 2010, then won terms in the state Senate in 2012 and 2016 before returning to the House in 2020.
Wallingford replaces Ken Zellers, whom Parson moved to the Office of Administration in October.
Wallingford is a decorated combat veteran of the Air Force who served from 1968 to 1993. He was a regional corporate officer for the Taco Bell division of Yum Brands, then known as PepsiCo, before becoming human resources director for McDonald’s of Southeast Missouri.
His first job will be to learn the department’s operations, Wallingford said.
“I usually take the first 90 days to study an organization to get to know the people,” he said. “You know the people and the front lines are the ones that really have the best idea. So I want to meet with the people. Listen to their ideas, look at the organization and step back and see what I’ve learned and then start making improvements at that point.”
Valerie Huhn, deputy director of the mental health agency, was selected Dec. 9 by the state Mental Health Commission to succeed retiring director Mark Stringer. Parson introduced her to the press on Wednesday.
Huhn has been with the department since 2014, first as director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities before taking her current post in 2020. Huhn began her career in state government in 2000 as a budget analyst.
Stringer retired in October after 24 years with the department and seven as director.
While Huhn “has some big shoes to fill, we are confident that she is up to the task and are happy to welcome her to the team,” Parson said.
The biggest challenge facing the department is maintaining staff levels, Huhn said.
“The men and the women who do this work have continued to deliver high quality care during the pandemic and an ongoing workforce shortage across the system that started well before the pandemic,” she said.
This article by Rudi Keller is published from The Missouri Independent through a Creative Commons license.