LINCOLN — Courtney Phillips, the top official at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, will be leaving for a job in Texas this fall.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Thursday evening that Phillips is taking a position as executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

A Louisiana native, Phillips has been chief executive officer of the state’s largest agency since 2015. Her last day with the agency will be October 14.

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Ricketts chose Phillips after a national search for a “transformational leader.” On Thursday, he praised her work in transforming an agency that has had frequent struggles.

Under Phillips’ leadership, he said, HHS has been delivering a better, higher level of service to Nebraskans.

“Her practice of issuing annual business plans has brought new focus and discipline to the agency,” Ricketts said. “This has made a real difference in the lives of Nebraskans.”

For her part, Phillips expressed pride in the agency’s accomplishments during the past three years.

“Whether it is improving customer service at AccessNebraska or giving our Medicaid clients more options with Heritage Health, this agency is delivering on its mission of helping people live better lives,” she said.

State Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston, the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee chairman, said he was disappointed to lose Phillips, although he had expected that she might move on. He said she has been good to work with and was making progress in changing the agency’s culture.

HHS encompasses five divisions: behavioral health, children and family services, developmental disabilities, Medicaid and long-term care, and public health. A sixth division, veterans homes, was moved into the Department of Veterans Affairs during Phillips’ tenure.

In December 2016, before that move, the agency had a $3.7 billion budget, including both state and federal funds, and 6,100 employees.

Before coming to Nebraska, Phillips was deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. She had steadily risen through that department’s ranks since beginning her career there in 2003.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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