LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Friday that the state official in charge of child welfare and economic assistance programs will step down Aug. 4.

Doug Weinberg has been director of the Department of Health and Human Services Children and Family Services Division since August 2015.

Ricketts said he has named Matt Wallen, who is chief of staff to HHS CEO Courtney Phillips, as Weinberg’s replacement.

In his role with HHS, Wallen oversaw the implementation of the department’s first business plan, led efforts to stabilize the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center at Kearney and worked with the executive team to establish performance measures for HHS.

“Matt has proven himself to be a thoughtful and capable leader within the agency,” Ricketts said. “He will be a wise steward of the trust placed in this agency by the families and children we serve.”

His salary will be $144,797.

Wallen previously worked as director of constituent services for Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, as well as chief of staff to the late Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio.

He also worked as director of market and resource planning for Union Pacific.

Under Weinberg’s leadership, the Children and Family Services Division expanded a program offering alternatives to traditional child welfare responses for families at risk.

He also worked to implement best-practice interventions to improve public safety and maintained improvements achieved at AccessNebraska, the state’s call center system for applying for economic benefits.

Before coming to Nebraska, Weinberg worked as chief financial officer for Indiana Medicaid after serving as CFO for the Indiana Department of Child Services.

State Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston, the Health and Human Services Committee chairman, said he was surprised at Weinberg’s departure and wondered if there is more to the change in leadership.

Ricketts said Weinberg was stepping down to return to his home state of Indiana.

Riepe said he has not worked extensively with Wallen and does not know his qualifications. He noted that the children and family services director oversees several important and complicated programs.

“At this point, I’m going to remain optimistic” about the new director, Riepe said.

Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, an Appropriations Committee member, said Wallen will confront numerous challenges, especially in the child welfare system.

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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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