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Pence names human services chief, ag director

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Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday named an attorney with health care regulatory experience to run the Indiana's human services agency while it implements the looming Medicaid expansion.

Pence tapped Debra Minott to be secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, which administers Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits and services to seniors, children, people with disabilities and those who are mentally ill.

"I've said many times over the years that the best welfare program is a good-paying job," Pence said. "But our administration is equally committed to make sure that Hoosiers compassionately provide the assistance and services that struggling Hoosiers need as they strive to find work and get ahead through difficult times."

Under the health care law, Medicaid rolls are set to expand on Jan. 1, 2014, to cover people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $15,400 a year for an individual. Republican House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown said this week the cost of the state's current Medicaid program was projected to grow by between 11 percent and 17 percent over the next two years.

Pence said Minot's work in the private sector and as former Gov. Mitch Daniels' first personnel director qualified her for one of the state's highest-profile and most-demanding jobs.

The Carmel resident has been vice president and associate general counsel for Batesville medical device Hill-Rom, where her duties included managing health care regulatory matters. She's also a former senior counsel at Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co.

David Sklar, president of the Indiana Coalition of Human Services, said he knew little about Minott's background but said members of the coalition of advocacy groups were looking forward to working with her.

Pence also named Gina Sheets to lead the Agriculture Department, where she has been director of economic development and international trade. Before joining the agency, she served as economic Development Director and CEO of the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband Travis own a Clinton County farm where they raise pasture poultry and beef, free range hens, rainbow trout and produce.

"Our ag industry is strong, but it also has some tremendous potential," said Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who oversees the state's agriculture efforts. "We'll focus heavily on economic development and innovation including competitive tax structure for farmers, growing international opportunities and ... a food and agriculture innovation corridor."

Building such a corridor in Indiana is recommended in a recent industry report, she said.

Pence also said he will travel to Washington to represent Indiana at Obama's second inauguration on Sunday.

He said he and his wife, Karen, have a "target move date" of Feb. 2 for relocating to the Governor's Residence on Indianapolis's north side.

"We're looking very much forward to taking that opportunity to move into the Governor's Residence, and make that our home over the next four years," Pence said.

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