Timberlake takes over leading DHS as Palm departs for the Biden administration

By: - January 18, 2021 9:23 am
Karen Timberlake will take over as interim secretary at the state Department of Health Services.

Karen Timberlake

Andrea Palm, the state Department of Health Services secretary-designee, is leaving Wisconsin to join the Biden administration as its number two person in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Stepping into Palm’s role, as interim secretary beginning Jan. 25, will be Karen Timberlake, who was DHS secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle. Timberlake served in this role during the H1N1 pandemic virus outbreak.

“Andrea Palm is a public servant through and through — she’s been a critical part of our administration and a consummate professional who has done an extraordinary job helping lead our state during an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “I know she will continue to serve our country just as she has our state — with empathy, kindness and tenacity.

Under former President Barack Obama, Palm was chief of staff and senior counselor to the HHS secretary, working alongside Leslie Dach, who now chairs Protect Our Care and praised Biden’s pick.

“Andrea Palm … is kind, she is tough and she knows the issues,” said Dach. “In Wisconsin she did an extraordinary job combating the pandemic, respecting the science and the facts, protecting the public health and telling the truth to the people she served. I worked with Andrea every day I was at HHS, and she is a public servant through and through.”


State Senate Republicans refused to confirm Palm, often criticizing her and blaming the Evers administration for overreach because of public health declarations and mask mandates. Republican leaders took her to court to overturn her public health orders. She appeared at frequent public media briefings with the governor to share the latest news and information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our top priorities at the DHS will continue to be advocating to receive Wisconsin’s fair share of vaccines from the federal government, distributing vaccines out across the state and getting shots in arms as quickly as possible while we work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Timberlake.

Timberlake most recently was a partner at Michael Best Strategies, giving advice in the areas of public health and health care delivery. Prior to that she led the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and served as an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.