COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - The director of the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control is stepping down, the agency confirmed Thursday morning.
Catherine Heigel, who served as DHEC's director since June 2015, will rejoin Elliott Davis, a rapidly growing Southeast accounting and business advisory firm, as its chief operating officer in August 2017, according to DHEC spokesperson Jennifer Read.
David E. Wilson will serve as DHEC's acting director, effective Aug. 5, until the DHEC board completes interviews for a permanent replacement, Read said.
"Catherine has been an exceptional leader for DHEC and we are grateful for the time she has taken to serve our state. She set a clear vision for the agency, built a talented executive leadership team, and instituted key fiscal, operational and governance protocols that will ensure the agency's continued success into the future," DHEC Board Chairman Allen Amsler said.
Heigel earned accolades for her "transformational leadership" of the agency, Read said. During her tenure, DHEC adopted its first strategic plan since 2005. She was credited with initiating major modernizations of critical systems and processes and working to promote transparency in agency operations.
"Under her direction, DHEC privatized its home health business, which resulted in continued employment for affected agency employees, uninterrupted care for its clients, and a financial gain for the state of South Carolina of $17.5 million," Read said.
Heigel is also credited with promoting the recently-launched SC Adopt-a-Stream program with Clemson University to empower citizen volunteers to help monitor water quality in the state's lakes, rivers and streams; and successfully managing major public health and environmental emergencies for the agency, including the October 2015 Flood and Hurricane Matthew last October.
"Catherine was instrumental in our strategic growth and we are thrilled to welcome her back to Elliott Davis," Elliott Davis Managing Shareholder Rick Davis said.
Amsler said the DHEC board would retain an outside firm to begin a nationwide search in the coming months for the next DHEC director.