Gov. Hobbs withdraws nomination of Dr. Cullen to lead Arizona Department of Health Services

Cullen to remain as director of the Pima County Health Department
Dr. Theresa Cullen
Dr. Theresa Cullen(Pima County Health Department)
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 2:02 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2023 at 2:28 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Gov. Katie Hobbs has withdrawn her nomination of Dr. Theresa Cullen to lead the Arizona Department of Health Services, but Cullen isn’t unemployed.

Hobbs’ Tuesday announcement came days after Cullen, the former director of the Pima County Health Department, was grilled for hours by the Republican-led committee.

After Hobbs’ release came out, Pima County announced Cullen will be staying on the job despite stepping down weeks ago.

“I was honored to be hired as Pima County Health Director and I was honored to be considered to lead the state’s public health agency. While the state job hasn’t worked out, I love being Pima County’s public health director and there remains a lot of work to do making Pima County one of the healthiest counties in the country.” Cullen said.

That committee voted 3-2 and said the state Senate should not approve Cullen’s appointment. Cullen could have served as the AZDHS director for a year even without the approval of the Senate.

Hobbs said she made the decision because Cullen herself did not want to proceed as the nominee. But Hobbs stood by her selection given Cullen’s nearly three-decades-long career in public health.

“Her actions and her decisions saved countless lives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hobbs said. “In December 2022, Arizona became the state with the single highest number of COVID deaths per capita across the country. Dr. Cullen’s leadership (in Pima County) during those tumultuous years directly resulted in more Arizonans being alive and with us today.”

Hobbs called out members of the committee that spent hours going after Cullen during last week’s hearing.

“Even with this mountain of expertise, and an immense track record of public health success, some lawmakers have decided that they should instead participate in vicious personal attacks and criticism over a tweet thanking frontline healthcare workers several years ago,” Hobbs said. “This is not only foolish, it detracts from the important work we have in front of us.”

Hobbs said she understands why Cullen would not want to proceed with leading the state’s top health agency.

“While I am deeply concerned that Dr. Cullen has chosen not to proceed as the nominee for AzDHS director, I understand and respect her decision,” Hobbs said. “The way some Republicans on the State Senate’s committee on director nominations was nothing short of harassment and those who participated in it should be ashamed of their behavior - we all should.

“As long as Republicans choose politics over the people of Arizona, some of the most talented and qualified candidates will choose not to enter state service, and it is the people of Arizona who will suffer most because of these political games.”