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State health secretary's legacy includes fewer smokers

Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky announced her plans to retire this week. - Courtesy photo
Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky announced her plans to retire this week.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky announced her plans to retire this week, saying she plans to return to her hometown of Colville.

However, she will stay in her position until her replacement is found.

Selecky was first appointed as an "acting secretary" of health in 1998 by then-governor Gary Locke. Her nearly 15 years of service in the position make her one of the longest tenured state health leaders in the country.

Before her appointment as state secretary of health, Selecky had served as the administrator for the Northeast Tricounty Health District for almost 20 years. In total, Selecky has put in 38 years of public service.

"Public health affects every person in our state. I'm especially proud of the great progress we've made lowering smoking rates and getting more kids vaccinated. We'll have a healthier future because of it," Selecky said in a prepared statement. "It has truly been an honor to serve the people of Washington and to work with such dedicated state, local, and tribal public health professionals."

According to the Department of Health (DOH), under Selecky's leadership, adult smoking rates in Washington have dropped 30 percent overall, while youth smoking rates have dropped by half. Childhood vaccination rates are at their highest in recent years as well, which the DOH credits as another sign of Selecky's leadership.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Selecky has been a boon to the people of Washington state for the past 15 years.

"Thanks to Mary, Washington is a healthier place to live and raise a family," Inslee said. "I thank her for her valuable service to the people of our state and wish her all the best as she returns to the beautiful town of Colville."

 

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