Courtney Hawkins resigns as DHS director

Politics - Government

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Courtney Hawkins resigned on Thursday as director of the R.I. Department of Human Services, 12 News has confirmed, leaving Gov. Dan McKee with a vacancy to fill at the helm of a key agency.

“Leading the team of hundreds of dedicated public servants at DHS has been the greatest honor and opportunity of my life,” Hawkins wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones.

Hawkins’ resignation is effective May 14. She has led DHS since June 2017, and was closely involved in the Raimondo administration’s efforts to stabilize social-services programs after the UHIP computer system fiasco. Benefit programs under DHS’s purview include food stamps through SNAP and cash assistance through Rhode Island Works.

“Together we have stabilized the department’s operations while implementing a number [of] programmatic improvements which have impacted and improved the lives of thousands of vulnerable individuals and families,” Hawkins wrote in her letter to Jones.

McKee spokesperson Matt Sheaff said Hawkins’ successor has yet to be named.

“It will be a priority for the McKee administration to find a candidate to lead this department which plays a crucial role in the lives of so many Rhode Islanders,” Sheaff said. “We thank Director Hawkins for her service and wish her all the best.”

Neither Hawkins nor McKee’s office indicated what led her to resign.

“The director is looking forward to remaining in Rhode Island, but does not plan to talk further about her next steps,” DHS spokesperson Alisha Pina said.

Hawkins adds to the list of holdover cabinet members from Gina Raimondo’s administration who have stepped down since McKee became governor, along with the Brett Smiley at the Department of Administration, Scott Jensen at the Department of Labor and Training, and Kathryn Power at the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

Sen. Lou DiPalma, a Middletown Democrat and expert on health and human services, described Hawkins’ departure as “a big loss” for Rhode Island, calling her “a dedicated, smart and exemplary leader/public servant.”

“Her departure will leave a big void,” DiPalma added.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

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