State inauguration ceremonies will wrap up this week for the nation’s 26 new state governors.  

The 18 new Republican and eight new Democratic governors are making appointments to their top state government jobs, including those for food safety.


Gubernatorial appointments for food safety oversight typically involve state health and/or agriculture departments, depending upon how the state is organized.   Some of the new governors have been quick to make appointments, while others are taking their time.


In this second in a series, Food Safety News focuses on the new public health/ag leaders in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has appointed Dennis Smith as Secretary of Health Services; and Ben Brancel as Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.


Brancel, a former Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, was Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection under former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson.


Brancel raises Angus beef cattle on a 290-acre farm with his wife, Gail, and their son and daughter-in-law, Tod and Sondra, in Wisconsin’s Marquette County.


Smith’s background is a little less traditional.  He takes over Health Services in Madison after a stint as a senior fellow for the conservative Washington D.C.-based Heritage Foundation.


From his Heritage post, Smith was an opponent of the new federal health care law.  In television appearances, he advocated states dropping Medicaid programs.


Smith succeeds Karen Timberlake as Secretary of the Department of Health Services.  Brancel replaces Rod Nilsestuen as Secretary of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

Ohio’s GOP Gov. John Kasich has appointed Dr. Theodore (Ted) Wymyslo as Director of the state Department of Health; and James Zehringer as Director of Agriculture.


Wymyslo has 30 years of experience in primary care as a practicing family physician, educator and administrator. Most recently, he has been a strong advocate for implementing the patient-centered medical home model of care in Ohio.


Zehringer is the former owner and operator of the Meiring Poultry and Fish Farm, which received several awards for outstanding environmental practices under his management.


Most recently, Zehringer served as state representative for the 77th House District, which encompasses Mercer and Preble counties as well as portions of Darke County. Prior to his work in the Ohio General Assembly he served as a Mercer County Commissioner from 2002 to 2007.

Food and agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Ohio, adding more than $98 billion to the economy each year. In addition to providing leadership for the agricultural industry, the director of agriculture administers numerous regulatory, food safety, and consumer protection programs.


Under the previous administration, Robert J. Boggs was Director of Agriculture and Alvin D. Jackson was Director of Health.