- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama’s longtime health officer said Wednesday that he is leaving his state post after more than two decades to become president of the Alabama Hospital Association.

Dr. Don Williamson said he wanted to remain involved in health care even though he is leaving the Alabama Department of Public Health, and going to work for the private group allows him to do that.

“It gives me an opportunity to work on the issues I want to work on. I want to work on rural hospitals. I want to work on covering the working poor,” Williamson said.

The hospital organization said Williamson will take over about November. He said he plans to leave the state agency in fall, but an exact date hasn’t been finalized.

Williamson has been state health officer since 1992. He’s also chairman of the Alabama Medicaid Transition Task Force, where he led the program’s conversion to managed care in a state that has struggled with funding every year.

Williamson said the past three years have been challenging while trying to lead Public Health and the Medicaid overhaul simultaneously.

News of Williamson’s departure came as lawmakers were debating a large funding cut to the state’s Medicaid program, but Williamson said other factors were behind his departure.

“No. 1: I’m 60,” Williamson said.

Williamson said he was not looking to leave but the opportunity with the association presented itself.

Gov. Robert Bentley issued a statement calling Williamson “an outstanding public servant and a dedicated member of my team.”

“I congratulate Dr. Williamson on his retirement, and I look forward to working with him in a new role with the Alabama Hospital Association,” Bentley said.

At the association, Williamson will take over from current President Mike Horsley, who previously announced his retirement.

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