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Incoming Gov. Tina Kotek was a critic; Kate Brown named him 5 years ago to lead one of the largest state agencies.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen speaking to the media in 2020. Allen, a Sherwood resident, is stepping down as director of the state agency. Patrick Allen will resign as Oregon Health Authority director on Jan. 9, when Tina Kotek is sworn in as governor.

Kotek has made no secret of her dissatisfaction with Allen, who has led the largest state agency (in terms of overall budget) since Gov. Kate Brown appointed him in September 2017. Kotek was critical of the agency's slowness in distributing money from a ballot measure that voters approved in 2020 in part to rechannel funds into mental health and addiction treatment, though a spending plan is now approved and the initial money released to providers.

Prior to becoming speaker of the Oregon House in 2013, Kotek was a House co-leader of the legislative budget subcommittee on human services, which includes the Oregon Health Authority.

Allen and Brown were known for their aggressive approach to combating the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the onset of the pandemic in spring 2020. Oregon ranks low among the states for deaths resulting from COVID, measured per 100,000 population. As of the latest update Nov. 16, the Oregon Health Authority recorded 917,164 cases and 8,787 deaths during the pandemic.

Allen had been director for six years of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services — which gets little from the tax-supported general fund — when Brown named him to succeed Lynne Saxton as director of the Oregon Health Authority.

The authority employs nearly 5,000 people and its total budget for the current two-year cycle tops $30 billion, only $3.5 billion of which is from the general fund. Most comes from federal and other funds. The Department of Human Services has almost 10,000 employees, but its budget is $17 billion, $4.8 billion of it from the general fund.

In addition to public health, the authority oversees a range of programs, including mental health, addictions treatment, Oregon State Hospital and the Oregon Health Plan, which cover about 1.4 million Oregonians. It is Oregon's version of Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for low-income people and some people with disabilities.

The authority was split off from the Department of Human Services in 2011.

Prior to his agency leadership roles, Allen was deputy administrator of the state Building Codes Division from 2007 to 2011. His government service goes back three decades, and most of it has been with state agencies. He was a district director for U.S. Rep. Mike Kopetski, a Democrat from Salem, from 1991 to 1993.

A former high school basketball referee, Allen was on the Sherwood School Board from 2013 until his defeat in 2021. He also has been on the Sherwood Planning Commission.

As the Democratic nominee for governor, Kotek told reporters and editors at Pamplin Media Group on Oct. 5 that she would not dismiss all state agency leaders upon taking office, unlike her Republican opponent, Christine Drazan. Kotek said such a step would result in "complete chaos."

But Kotek said she planned to sit down with leaders of key agencies — she singled out the Oregon Health Authority — and ensure that they understood her expectations.

Agency leaders usually submit pro-forma resignations when a new governor takes office. Commissions, not the governor, appoint directors of some agencies — but that does not apply to the Oregon Heath Authority.

When Kotek named Tim Inman to lead her transition team last week, Kotek said one of its goals was to review current state agency leadership. Inman was a chief of staff for Kotek as House speaker between 2015 and 2018, when he took his current job at the University of Oregon. He is taking a leave to serve as transition director.

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