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DHEC selects Simmer as new director

Dr. Edward Simmer was selected as the agency's new director Tuesday morning.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The search for a director for South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is over. 

Dr. Edward Simmer, MD, was selected as the agency's new director Tuesday morning. Simmer will fill the post vacated by Rick Toomey last summer. 

Dr. Simmer currently serves as Chief Medical Officer of TRICARE Health Plan, and will be retiring from the Navy on Dec. 31, 2020. Previously, he served as Commanding Officer and CEO at the Naval Hospital in WA, Oak Harbor. Official say Simmer has over 25 years of "extensive clinical leadership and team-building experience, including transforming a large health care system."

DHEC’s board met virtually Tuesday morning to discuss the search for a new director and narrowed the search down to three candidates. After meeting in executive session, the board ultimately decided on Dr. Simmer.

“With his strong track record in providing strategic direction for and managing large, complex organizations, we are confident in Dr. Simmer’s ability to work with agency experts and community partners to successfully lead us through the current public health and environmental challenges before us and those ahead,” said SCDHEC Board Chair Mark Elam. 

The South Carolina Senate still has to give final approval on Simmer when they return to the State House in January as does the governor. The DHEC director is selected by the board to serve a four-year term.

In a statement sent out Tuesday morning, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said, "“Dr. Simmer’s service and professional qualifications are remarkable, his career and achievements demonstrate the proven leadership and management skills required to direct the Department of Health and Environmental Control. The board has made an excellent choice and it’s my hope the Senate will confirm Dr. Simmer as quickly as possible."

Simmer received his Doctor of Medicine from Saint Louis University and holds a Master of Public Health, with a focus on epidemiology, from the Eastern Virginia Medical School/Old Dominion University Consortium. In addition, Simmer is Board Certified in General and Forensic Psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and has an Administrative Psychiatry Certification from the American Psychiatric Association.

“2020 has emphasized the importance of the work being done by DHEC employees each day. The selection of Dr. Edward Simmer to serve as the director of DHEC reaffirms the Board’s commitment to promoting and protecting the health and safety of all South Carolinians, and the communities where they live, work and play," said Board Charmain Mark Elam. “Dr. Simmer’s experience in management through his over 30 year naval career, long time residency in Beaufort and proven leadership skills will serve the agency, its many talented and dedicated staff and the people of South Carolina well.”

Marshall Taylor, the agency's chief legal counsel, has been serving as the agency's interim executive since June 11 after director Rick Toomey resigned in May.