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  1. Florida Politics

Gov. Rick Scott replaces two top social service agency officials

Published Sep. 22, 2016

TALLAHASSEE — Heads of two state social service agencies are leaving their posts, including one of the state's top health officials who has been in office since 2011, Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday.

Liz Dudek, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, will retire Oct. 3 after more than 40 years in state government. Sam Verghese, head of the Department of Elder Affairs since 2014, is stepping down to be replaced by Scott's top pick for insurance commissioner, who was rejected for that job by the Cabinet this spring. Dudek and Verghese earned $141,000 a year.

Dudek, 65, was one of the last remaining agency heads appointed in the early months of Scott's administration and oversaw a complete reform of Medicaid.

"Under her leadership, we have worked to make hospitals more transparent and accomplished historic Medicaid reform," Scott said. "She has done an outstanding job making sure all Floridians have the opportunity to lead a healthy and safe life."

Deputy Secretary Justin Senior, who oversees the state Medicaid program, will succeed Dudek as interim AHCA secretary. A lawyer by training, Senior, 45, played a key role in shifting the state Medicaid program to managed care. He negotiated with the federal government during a 2015 dispute over Medicaid expansion and cuts in funding to a program that covered hospital costs for the uninsured.

Just hours after announcing Dudek's retirement, Scott appointed Palm Harbor resident Jeffrey Bragg as secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs, effective Friday.

This isn't the first time Scott has tried to get Bragg, 67, a job running a state agency. Scott tried to appoint him insurance commissioner in the spring.

Twice Scott and Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater deadlocked over who to pick. Atwater refused to accept Bragg, while Scott refused to go with Atwater's choice of Rep. Bill Hager.

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.

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