Question and Answer with Florida Deputy Health Secretary Kristina Wiggins

Apr 30, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on April 30, 2012: 

Q & A with:  Deputy Health Secretary Kristina Wiggins

By Christine Jordan Sexton

Midway through the 2012 session, 37-year-old Kristina Wiggins was named a deputy secretary at the mammoth Department of Health. Before being named deputy secretary, Wiggins served as a legislative analyst for the Florida Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee for three years. She also worked in the House Committee on Domestic Security and Energy, making her an unknown commodity to many in the health care field. She spoke with The Florida Current April 27 from her Tallahassee office in the Prather Building. 

Q: Your appointment as Department of Health Deputy Secretary caught some people in health care circles off guard.  How did you end up at the Department of Health? 

I was asked to come over and interview by Dr. Farmer (former DOH Secretary Frank Farmer).  

I worked at the Department of Education and then I had the opportunity to move to Ohio, and I worked as a fiscal analyst there and I had four agencies I was overseeing. That was a mix between fiscal and personnel management. After we Floridians spent a full year in Ohio — we had enough of that cold and rain and terrible snow that never ends and there is no sun — I had an opportunity to move back to Florida, which we did. I went back to the Department of Education. 

But I’ve done a lot of grants management. Education touches on a lot of different aspects. The fields I’ve worked in are kindergarten to post-secondary. I got recruited from there to go to Florida State University and I worked there for three years as a reading endorsement director for the College of Education. And in that role, again, I hired faculty throughout the state and I ran their budget.

I’ve had a lot of opportunities to manage a lot of people and to juggle a lot of different hats, essentially. When that grant was coming to an end,  I pursued a (staff) opportunity in the House. And then the Senate.

Q: Did you have any reservations, given the fact the governor’s transition team issued a report that was pretty hard on the Department of Health?

I guess because I’m used to being in the House and Senate, we have transition every two years, and you kind of get used to that. 

Q: What was the most difficult thing to learn about health care? 

It wasn’t so much difficult, just really kind of eye-opening.

As a lifelong Floridian, to know that the Department of Health, from birth to death, touches their lives in really positive ways. Children’s Medical Services is one example I was really impressed with. We are talking about some very medically fragile children. We help families at very critical times in their lives. When their child is sick — and there is nothing more terrifying than that — and they can’t figure out what it is. We have such a great organization and such great rapport with medical directors and they are able to get those kids services quickly. And that’s saying a lot. 

Q: Where do you begin when it comes to  implementing HB 1263? 

We are really just moving into reorganization. We have a plan in place. We are working with the Department of Management Services and HR. We are going to be working on our position descriptions. We really are going to be in great shape and, actually right now, we are a little ahead of schedule, quite frankly. 

We have some divisions that are going away, we have some bureaus combining,  and some where we might be moving around a little bit, but we are going to try to do our best to keep everyone together.

I think for the most part, which is very unique and almost never happens, they have had the opportunity to participate. We have had meetings during and after session. We’ve met with all the divisions and we have taken their input and in some cases kind of tweaked things. It’s been a really open communication. 

Q: What will be the most challenging provision to implement in that bill?

Just the reorganization, getting everyone in place where they need to be. But we hope to have that in the fall. It’s cumbersome, it’s not necessarily something difficult. There’s a lot moving parts but we have a lot of great professionals here and they know what they are doing.

Q: Are you reading anything right now?

I am. I finished the Hunger Games (Catching Fire) and now I am finishing the Mockingjay. At first, I thought I wouldn’t care for it but once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I was a literature major in college.

 Q: Is employee morale at the DOH down? 

I think what’s really been great is we haven’t missed a beat. People in Florida are getting the services they need.  If anything, we have some employees who have stepped up and taken this opportunity to really shine. It’s something that may not have happened under other circumstances. I have really been impressed and I’m real proud of them. For the most part, I have an open door policy. I try to reiterate I really do want to hear from (them). And they have responded.