AUSTIN, Texas – Border healthcare specialists have welcomed Gov. Greg Abbott’s selection of Chris Traylor as executive commissioner of the scandal prone Health and Human Services Commission.

Traylor, a 52-year-old Lubbock native, replaces Kyle Janek, who announced Friday he would be resigning July 1, earlier than expected.  Traylor had been deputy executive commissioner of the $35 billion mega agency. It has 54,000 personnel on the payroll.

“I believe that Governor Gregg Abbott has made an excellent choice in naming Chris Traylor executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission. Governor Abbott should be commended for making this decision,” said state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo.

State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond
State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond

Raymond chairs the Texas Committee on Human Services and is a member of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission that reviewed the work of HHSC.

“As executive commissioner, I believe Chris Traylor will successfully implement the various laws we just passed, which are Sunset Commission recommendations. There is an old saying, ‘The right person, at the right place, at the right time.’ This certainly applies in this case. I expect great things from Executive Commissioner Traylor and I am certain he will succeed,” Raymond said.

Dr.  Manuel Acosta, and El Paso-based physician and chairman of the Border Health Caucus, said: “We congratulate the governor on a solid appointment and we look forward to working with Executive Commissioner Traylor to solve complex healthcare issues along the border.”

Jake Fuller, a healthcare consultant who represents clients from El Paso to Brownsville, said: “Chris Traylor knows the border well. He is a fair person and will make the healthcare delivery system better. He is fair but strong. He knows the rules and laws of the state and federal government as they apply to healthcare. We join others who applaud this appointment.”

After Janek announced his pending resignation, Gov. Abbott simultaneously announced his intention to appoint Traylor as executive commissioner and Charles Smith as deputy executive commissioner of HHSC.

“I thank Dr. Janek for his years of dedication and service to the State of Texas,” Abbott said. “I look forward to working with Chris Traylor to make needed reforms to ensure that the millions of Texans who rely on the vital services HHSC performs are able to have the utmost trust in the agency. Chris Traylor and Charles Smith have the proven leadership experience necessary to address the challenges facing HHSC, and I am confident in their ability to confront these challenges head on.”

The Governor’s Office offered this information about the appointments:

Chris Traylor is the Deputy Executive Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. He previously led the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) from 2010 to 2012 as the agency implemented broad reforms to improve state supported living centers that serve people with profound developmental disabilities. While at DADS, Traylor successfully worked to extend community care to more Texans with disabilities.

Before joining DADS, Traylor served as the Texas Medicaid director for three years. Under his leadership, Texas developed health passports for children in foster care, known as the STAR Health program, which has been nationally recognized for improving coordination of services for children in state custody. Traylor also helped integrate acute and long-term care services for Texans who are elderly or have disabilities, reducing the wait for services that allow people to get care in their homes and communities.

Traylor’s 25 years of public service include serving as chief of staff at HHSC and manager of the day-to-day operations of the consolidation of Texas health and human services agencies in 2004, as well as serving on the staff of former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm. Traylor is a graduate of Texas Tech University.

Charles Smith currently serves as the Deputy for Child Support at the Texas Office of the Attorney General. Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott appointed Smith as Deputy for Child Support in 2013. In this role, Smith is responsible for the overall delivery of child support services performed by the division’s 2,700 employees. Smith began his career in the Attorney General’s office as a volunteer in the Child Support Division in 1988, and attained positions of increasing responsibility during his 26 year career within the Division.

Smith served as the Division’s deputy director from 2004-2013 overseeing field operations. During Smith’s tenure, he led the Division’s transformation to become the top-rated child support program in the nation. Smith is recognized as a leader in personnel management, analytics, innovation, organization, streamlining processes and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of operations. His work in this area has earned him multiple awards throughout his career, and under Smith’s leadership the Texas Child Support Division has been recognized as the most efficient and effective program in the nation for two years in a row.

Dr. Manuel Acosta
Dr. Manuel Acosta

Smith is seen as a natural and national leader in the child support community. He recently served as President of the Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Council and currently serves as President-elect of the National Child Support Enforcement Association.

Smith was re-appointed to his position by current Attorney General Ken Paxton in January 2015. Smith is a graduate of Texas Tech University.

Janek, a former state senator from Houston, had weathered calls from legislators for his resignation due to a number of recent scandals at HHSC. They included controversial no-bid contracts and free tuition for top aides.

Janek, whose salary was $260,000 a year, told reporters Friday that he had expected to remain at the helm of HHSC for fours. He had started there in September, 2012. However, he said he had not been pressured into resigning by Abbott. He said now is a good time to be leaving because HHSC is set for a major overhaul, with five agencies being merged into three. “I gave it my dead level best,” Janek said.

The Public Integrity Unit at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office is currently investigating contracting problems at HHSC. Gregg Cox, director of the unit, said the investigations are ongoing. “We’re making progress,” he said.

Editor’s Note: The main picture accompanying this story features Kyle Janek and Chris Traylor.