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Newsom Taps Wilkening as Special Adviser for Innovation, Digital Services

The former secretary of California Health and Human Services has been a longtime champion of data sharing and other digital innovations in state government.

Michael Wilkening, a veteran of state government service, was named Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom to be special adviser on Innovation and Digital Services in the Office of the Governor.

Wilkening, 48, had most recently served as secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency and as chair of Covered California. He was succeeded in early March by Newsom appointee Mark Ghaly, a practicing pediatrician and director of health and social impact for Los Angeles County.

Before Wilkening’s appointment as CHHS secretary in 2018, he was CHHS undersecretary for almost 10 years under former Govs. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Before his tenure with CHHS, Wilkening held several positions with the state Department of Finance between 1995 and 2008. He had also been fiscal and policy analyst for the Health and Human Services Unit and was executive sponsor of the CHHS Open Data Initiative and the Agency Technology Governance Council.

Wilkening, 48, has long been a champion of data sharing and other innovations within the sprawling health-care agency.

He earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of California, Davis. His new position as special adviser does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $185,004. Wilkening is registered without party preference.

Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies including USA Today in Washington, D.C.