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Marylou Sudders, state's health secretary and COVID-19 response leader, announces retirement

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders speaks at a COVID-19 vaccine site at the Natick Mall on Feb. 24, 2021, in Natick, Mass. (Matt Stone/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders speaks at a COVID-19 vaccine site at the Natick Mall on Feb. 24, 2021, in Natick, Mass. (Matt Stone/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)

Marylou Sudders, who oversaw COVID-19 response efforts and helmed the sprawling health and human services secretariat, plans to retire from public service early next year.

Sudders notified state employees Monday of her plans in her monthly newsletter, which she said would be her last.

"Having entered state service in 1978, it has been the privilege of my professional career and an extraordinarily humbling experience to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services for Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito," Sudders wrote. "In November, 'my papers' for retirement from paid public service were filed with an effective date of January 5th."

Sudders was part of Gov. Charlie Baker's cabinet throughout his two terms and ran a secretariat with a $27.1 billion budget in fiscal 2022. She wrote that one of her predecessors had pointed out she was the longest-serving state secretary of health and human services.

"The goal has always been to channel the millions of Massachusetts residents that need governmental assistance in order to have good lives for themselves and their loved ones," she wrote. "And, to achieve that goal it was my responsibility to ensure that the resources were there for you to carry out your mission of public service. There is always more work ahead, challenges to surmount and opportunities for improvement. This message will not catalogue all of your extraordinary efforts as employees within health and human services; the list would be voluminous and no doubt something would be unintentionally omitted.

Sudders thanked her coworkers for "your willingness to be public employees, particularly throughout the past almost three years."

"Your willingness to transcend the public's often derisive image of public service, to confront seemingly insolvable issues with creativity and openness, and with the intrinsic knowledge that we engage in this work to help others," she wrote. "I have every confidence that Governor-elect Healey and Lt. Governor-elect Driscoll will value your service to others."

Gov.-elect Maura Healey has not yet named Sudders' successor. Sudders was state mental health commissioner for seven years ending in early 2003, and was president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children from 2003 until 2012.

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