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GovOps Chief, ‘Vaccine Czar’ Richardson Leaving State Role

Government Operations Secretary Yolanda Richardson is the third high-profile member of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s leadership team to announce within the past week plans to step down.

California’s “vaccine czar” is leaving state service for a job in San Francisco, she told employees Wednesday.

Yolanda Richardson, the secretary of the Government Operations Agency, will take over San Francisco’s Medi-Cal plan, she announced in an email. Her last day will be March 2. After Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed her in January 2020, she was almost immediately assigned key roles in the state’s pandemic response.
Yolanda Richardson cropped.jpg
Yolanda Richardson
Richardson’s departure marks the third recent resignation from Newsom’s team. Rita Saenz, director of the Employment Development Department (EDD), and Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, the state’s first surgeon general, announced that they were stepping down in recent days.

As GovOps chief, Richardson was responsible for the transition of the state workforce to telework and the procurement of personal protective equipment and testing supplies, according to her state bio. Newsom also tasked her with leading the strike team to fix massive problems with EDD’s distribution of unemployment checks and with leading the state’s 2020 Census effort. Richardson appeared alongside Newsom during events aimed at increasing coronavirus vaccinations, including a vaccination lottery event at Universal Studios, where he praised her from the stage.

“We have our own vaccine czar, Yolanda Richardson,” Newsom said. “We’re grateful for her incredible leadership and stewardship.” In a statement Thursday, Newsom said Richardson was “an integral partner in leading the state’s robust response to the pandemic and ongoing efforts to tackle its far-reaching impacts on Californians.”

GovOps oversees the state Human Resources Department, the Department of General Services, the California Department of Technology, the Office of Digital Innovation, the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the California State Teachers' Retirement System and other major departments. Before taking over the agency, Richardson helped found Covered California, which runs the online health insurance marketplace for Affordable Care Act health plans.

“This position gives me the opportunity to return to my health-care roots,” Richardson told employees in the Wednesday email. “Many of us have been changed by the pandemic; for me, the tragic outcomes due to health-care disparities were personal, and I am committed to doing all I can professionally to close them for the most vulnerable Californians.”

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