The nation’s new governors are now all at their posts, and most have already delivered their own “State of State” or budget messages. After last November’s election, 29 executive mansion’s are held by the GOP, 20 by Democrats, and one by an independent, the former Republican, Rhode Island’s Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

With the executive branches of 26 states now under the command of new governors, personnel changes are coming fast and furious. Food safety in state government is often spread across health, agriculture, and consumer portfolios. 

Food Safety News continues today with more reports on these important state-level appointments.

Empire state’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated Buffalo native Dr. Nirav R. Shah as the 15th New York State Commissioner of Health.  

Dr/ Shah earned both his medical degree and a master’s of public health at Yale University’s School of Medicine.

He takes over from Dr. Richard Daines, who sought extra taxes on soda pop to fight obesity.

The new commissioner comes to state government from Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.

Vermont’s new Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin picked Dr. Harry L. Chen to be Health Commissioner.

Dr. Chen takes over in Vermont for Dr. Wendy Davis.  

Chen earned his medical degree and completed his residency at the Oregon Health Sciences University, where he served a chief resident. He then served on the faculty of the George Washington University Medical Center’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

In Vermont, he’s served as an emergency physician at the Rutland Regional Medical Center for over 20 years. He was also elected to the Vermont House of Representatives and served on its Health Care Committee. Chen has been active in health care reform.

South Dakota Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard has named Walt Bones as Secretary of Agriculture.

Bones, with his brothers and nephews, operates a dairy for 2,200 cows and raises cattle and grain on land near Parker, SD that has been in the family since 1879.  

He succeeds Jon Farris, who has been South Dakota’s acting secretary of agriculture since Bill Even resigned.

SD’s Department of Agriculture has programs for plants, eggs, and dairy to protect consumers and maintain integrity of its brands.

Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has nominated Dr. Eli Avila as Secretary of Health.

Dr. Avila was chief deputy commissioner for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services where he was in charge of more than 1,600 employees and an annual budget of $400 million.

Avila is a lawyer-doctor, having earned his medical degree from the Brown University School of Medicine and his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law.  He also has a master degree in public health from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine at New York University.

Avila replaces Everette James, who left state government last October to become a Vice Chancellor at the University of Pittsburg.

Wyoming Republican Gov. Matt Mead has re-appointed Jason Fearneyhough as head of the state Department of Agriculture and appointed Casper City Manager Tom Forslund to head the state Health Department.

FearneyHough has headed up Wyoming’s Ag department for the past 18 months.  Forslund’s appointment means Wyoming has an opening for a new state health officer.

Dr. Brent Sherard currently is both head department head and the state’s chief health officer.   Being a city manager, and not a medical doctor, Forslund cannot be both the director and health officer.

A department spokesman said it’s likely an acting state health officer will be named from the existing staff when Dr. Sherard departs.

Wyoming was recently named as among a handful of state’s as getting an “A” from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) when it comes to identifying and investigating outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam named Julius Johnson, who has worked for the state Farm Bureau for almost four decades, as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.

Johnson is a Tennessee native who was a beef cattle farmer before going on to a career with the Farm Bureau, where he has been chief administrative officer for the past 15 years.

Johnson took over from former Commissioner Terry j. Oliver.