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Ohio health department director stepping down

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Ohio Department of Health Director Rick Hodges announced Monday he will step down at month’s end.

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COLUMBUS — Ohio Department of Health Director Rick Hodges announced Monday he will step down at month’s end.

He will be replaced at least temporarily by Lance Himes, the department’s chief legal counsel, who also became acting director in 2014 between the resignation of Dr. Ted Wymyslo and Mr. Hodges’ appointment.

Mr. Hodges is a former state representative from Fulton County and former executive director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. He said he is pursuing opportunities outside the administration.

“Rick has been a valued member of our team since the beginning of the administration and has enthusiastically and adeptly taken on big challenges at both the turnpike commission and at the Department of Health,” said Gov. John Kasich, who had appointed him.

“I appreciate his service and wish him and his family well in this new chapter of their lives,” the governor said.

The governor chose Mr. Hodges to succeed a physician despite the turnpike director’s nonmedical background. Mr. Kasich then promoted Dr. Mary DiOrio, a former state epidemiologist, to a new position of medical director to compensate.

Mr. Hodges had no trouble being confirmed by the Senate, however.

He has been on board as Ohio enforced new restrictions on abortion clinics and as the state prepared for a potential response to an Ebola outbreak after the deadly disease briefly appeared in the state.

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