Kendra Gerlach is joining the state Department of Health and Human Services next week as its new communications director, replacing Ricky Diaz who resigned in January.
Gerlach, 42, most recently was the senior marketing manager at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, according to her LinkedIn profile. She will make $110,000 a year.
Gerlach is a native North Carolinian with 15 years of experience in healthcare public relations and five years experience as a newspaper journalist, according to DHHS. Before working for Emory, Gerlach worked at Atlanta Medical Center and New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. She is experienced in healthcare crisis communication and has been trained at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“My family and I are thrilled to be coming back to North Carolina,” Gerlach said in a prepared statement. “My years in healthcare have given me a heart for serving others and I am deeply honored at the opportunity to serve the people of my home state.”
The agency’s communications office is essential to protecting health and safety, said DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, as evidenced by the communications effort on Ebola preparations.
“Kendra’s experience developing and implementing public relations strategies for hospitals will be invaluable in enabling us to fulfill this very important part of our mission, and I am excited that she will be joining our leadership team,” Wos said in a statement.
Diaz was a source of controversy partly because of his lack of experience. Wos hired the 24-year-old at an $85,000 salary after he worked as a spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign.
Gerlach starts work on Nov. 3.