PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The interim director of the R.I. Department of Human Services is stepping down at the end of the month, Gov. Dan McKee’s office announced Wednesday.

The governor’s office named Celia Blue as the interim leader of DHS back on May 14, following the resignation of the previous director, Courtney Hawkins. At the time, the administration indicated Blue would serve as the interim director while candidates were interviewed to permanently fill the position, but a permanent director has not been named.

Celia Blue (credit: R.I. Department of Human Services)

Matt Sheaff, a spokesperson for McKee, said Blue “is leaving to pursue an opportunity with a nonprofit organization that she helped to establish in Massachusetts.”

Sheaff said the search is continuing for a permanent DHS director, but in the meantime the agency will be led on an acting basis by Yvette Mendez, who is currently chief of staff in the R.I. Executive Office of Health & Human Services, following Blue’s departure.

Target 12 first reported in December that some Rhode Islanders were waiting months to get approval from DHS for their applications for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

In January, Target 12 obtained data showing the number of SNAP recipients statewide dropped since 2020, despite nationwide demand increasing.

Local unions that staff DHS held a press conference at the Pawtucket DHS office to air their frustrations Wednesday afternoon.

“While DHS management portrays to the public a narrative of everything is great,” said Matt Gunnip, president of SEIU Local 580, “The truth is, their actions do not meet their words.”

Gunnip and Rafael Martinez, president of Local 2882, both said they tried talking to DHS leadership, but that nothing changed.

“I have no confidence in this current leadership,” Martinez said.

They also said the departure of the interim director would not solve the problems at DHS.

“This is about the culture of leadership at all levels,” Gunnip said.

They said their unions have lost a combined 78 employees at DHS that haven’t been replaced.

DHS spokesperson Jose Garcia told Target 12 the agency is constantly working to fill staff vacancies, and is currently recruiting for dozens of open positions.

“DHS is currently focused on recruiting 71 positions – five of which are already filled – that would be dedicated to front facing and back office operations staff,” Garcia said. “Not all of the front facing and back office positions available represent roles associated with union membership.”

DHS announced on Jan. 18 it would resume all in-person services after being closed for most in-person services for nearly two years.

Blue had previously served as the chief of staff and deputy director of DHS under Hawkins and her predecessor, Eric Beane. Before joining DHS, Blue was chief of staff at the R.I. Department of Transportation, and prior to coming to Rhode Island she served as registrar of motor vehicles in Massachusetts.

Tolly Taylor ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook

Eli Sherman and Ted Nesi contributed to this report.