Kelly Kennedy Garcia, a 2004 graduate of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, has been appointed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as Director of the state’s Department of Human Services.
Garcia leaves her current role as Deputy Executive Commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services, which she has held since December of 2018. She has worked in Texas government in various roles since entering the workforce.
“This is a really important agency. It impacts a lot of people in Iowa, so we really want to get top talent in there, and I believe she’s the right person to really take DHS to the next level,” Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said of Garcia. “Kelly Garcia is an experienced social service leader and team builder with a passion for helping people and leading change.”
In her new role, Garcia will be charged with overseeing one of the state’s largest departments. The Iowa Department of Human Services works with a $6.5 billion budget; has about 4,600 employees; and administers programs ranging from the foster care system, to Medicaid, to the state’s behavioral and mental health programs.
“To meet the ambitious goals Governor Reynolds has set for serving Iowa’s most vulnerable populations, it’s going to take a strong team effort at DHS and throughout the state,” Garcia said. “I look forward to hitting the ground running and building relationships within our own team and across the state to help Iowa families succeed.”
Garcia’s career has been rapidly progressing since graduating with her Master of Public Service and Administration degree. She worked as a project manager and senior analyst with the Texas Sunset Commission and was a senior adviser to former Governor Rick Perry.
“The Bush School really instilled in me the importance of how to ask thoughtful questions and hone in on identifying problems,” Garcia said. “Precise analytical skills and solution building is at the core of my everyday work because the nature of human services brings difficult problems in need of creative solutions. The Bush School also taught me the importance of “team.” No one person is most important in an organization, and diversity in thought and background on teams, coupled with an environment that fosters discourse, always makes for the best decisions.”
Garcia has also made a point to give back to the School—she often makes trips to College Station to help current students and serve on alumni panels.
“Working to help the Bush School and its students is an investment,” Garcia said. “I have benefited from strong mentorship throughout my career, beginning with my time at the Bush School. People made an investment in me as an eager learner, and I consider it a gift to be able to do the same. Recognizing talent and helping people realize their potential is one of the most rewarding parts of leadership.”
“As a relatively young school, we’re thrilled that the careers of many of our earlier graduates are really starting to blossom,” Bush School Dean Mark Welsh said. “Kelly hit the ground running after graduation. I’m convinced this is not the culmination of her career in public service but only her next opportunity to serve. Kelly has an incredibly bright future ahead.”