Former state insurance chief Eleanor Kitzman was appointed Monday as director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), but the decision drew questions from senators who must confirm the nomination.
The DHEC board chose Kitzman, an ally of Republican Governor Haley. The governor appoints the board members. The eight-member board voted to appoint Kitzman after a private meeting.
Kitzman, 58, is a Texas native who was insurance commissioner in South Carolina from 2005-2007 under Governor Mark Sanford. She left the agency after a disagreement with Sanford and later ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010. She also served briefly as director of the state Budget and Control Board in South Carolina. In 2011, she was named insurance commissioner in Texas.
According to media reports in Texas, she was forced out in 2013 after Democratic senators complained that she did not stand up for consumers on insurance matters. Kitzman denied those allegations, but left the state to work with a private insurance business in New York.
The State newspaper reports some South Carolina Democrats question whether Kitzman has any experience in public health or environmental matters. Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, serves on the committee that must confirm Kitzman. He told the paper that he would like to learn if Kitzman does have such experience before supporting her nomination.
Haley, who has said she wants to see DHEC be friendlier to businesses, said Kitzman is good pick for the DHEC position. She credited Kitzman with getting her involved in politics. On her second day in office, Haley succeeded in getting Kitzman approved as Budget and Control Board director. Kitzman remained in that post only a few months before being appointed to the Texas position.
DHEC is one of South Carolina’s largest agencies, with more than 3,500 employees. It has a broad mission, ranging from oversight of hospital expansions and tattoo parlors to issuing pollution permits for industry and regulating coastal development.