Appoints new Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity, Health Commissioner and Department of Human Service Commissioner.
Philadelphia, June 27, 2014– Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced the departure of three senior staff members: Dr. Donald Schwarz, Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity and Health Commissioner; Anne Marie Ambrose, Department of Human Services Commissioner; and Suzanne Biemiller, First Deputy Chief of Staff.
“These three individuals are some of the most highly respected, trusted, impressive public servants that I have ever had the opportunity to work with,” said Mayor Nutter. “Individually and collectively, Dr. Schwarz, Commissioner Ambrose and Suzanne Biemiller have served the citizens of our great City with the highest levels of commitment, innovation and humanity in improving the lives of children and adults all across our great City. It is with a great sadness for their departures that I wish them well in their next endeavor.”
Dr. Donald Schwarz was appointed Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity and Health Commissioner in January 2008. Prior to entering government service, Dr. Schwarz served as Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and Deputy Physician-in-Chief and Craig-Dalsimer Division Chair for Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He has more than 22 years experience in adolescent risk factor research. He will be leaving the Administration on July 15 to join the nation’s largest philanthropic organization dedicated to health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as the Demand Portfolio Team Director.
“Since accepting Mayor Nutter’s call to public service in 2008, I have been honored to serve all Philadelphians,” said Dr. Schwarz. “It is gratifying to see the progress that a city can make, even in the face of economic recession, in improving the health and welfare of its residents when we all work together for the common good.”
Under his leadership as Deputy Mayor, Philadelphia has experienced a more than 50 percent increase in permanent housing for homeless individuals and families, a 24 percent reduction in the rate of dependent children removed from their families and a substantial improvement in the access to the behavioral health system, including independent, community-based living placements for individuals with serious mental illness.
As Health Commissioner, Dr. Schwarz has implemented successful smoking cessation and anti-obesity programs, leading to a five percent reduction in the City’s childhood obesity rate, the City’s first drop in the adult obesity rate in more than a decade and a 15 percent decline in the adult smoking rate. Additionally, Dr. Schwarz was integral to establishing the public-private partnership to construct a new, $42 million health center complex in South Philadelphia.
Susan Kretsge, a graduate of Temple University with 39 years of experience working in City government, will replace Dr. Schwarz as Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity. Previously, Ms. Kretsge worked in the Fire Department, Health Department, Office of Human Resources and the Managing Director’s Office. Since 2008, she has served as the Chief of Staff for the Office of Health and Opportunity.
As Chief of Staff, Ms. Kretsge works closely with the City’s health and social services departments, managing programs and legislative, budgetary and analytical projects, including a multi-department plan to increase the City’s permanent supportive housing inventory and a large-scale social service data warehouse project which will support research, analysis and collaborative case management activities.
“I appreciate Mayor Nutter affording me the opportunity to lead the work of the Office of Health and Opportunity,” said Ms. Kretsge. “Over the last six years, staff in these departments has improved the health of Philadelphians and child safety and offered a life off the street for hundreds of formerly homeless individuals. I have worked closely with our departments on this work and I look forward to continuing these efforts in my new role.”
Mayor Nutter appointed Dr. James Buehler, MD, Drexel University School of Public Health Professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy, as the new Health Commissioner. Dr. Buehler has more than 30 years of public health experience having served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, senior scientist at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and public health professor at Drexel University and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. A graduate of the University of California at Berkley and the School of Medicine of the University of California, Dr. Buehler is certified by the American Boards of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine.
“I would like to thank Mayor Nutter for the opportunity to serve the City of Philadelphia as its next Health Commissioner. Although I’m a newcomer to Philadelphia, having lived here for just a year, I’ve come to love this City and admire and respect the achievements of its Department of Public Health,” said Dr. Buehler. “The Department has demonstrated its ability to be innovative and effective in many areas, taking on the most challenging public health problems of our time, like preventing chronic diseases by making it easier for Philadelphians to choose healthy lifestyles, improving the health of mothers and children and preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Going forward, I promise that I will come to work with one goal in mind: to do what I can to protect and promote the health of every person who lives in or visits our City.”
In June 2008, Anne Marie Ambrose was appointed Commissioner for the Department of Human Services, the largest child welfare agency in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Prior to serving as DHS Commissioner, Ms. Ambrose worked as the Director of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Services at the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, DHS Deputy Commissioner for Juvenile Justice Services and an attorney for the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Ms. Ambrose is a 1987 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. Ms. Ambrose will be leaving the Administration on August 1 to join Casey Family Programs as the Senior Director for Leadership Development and System Engagement.
During her tenure as DHS Commissioner, Ms. Ambrose spearheaded a comprehensive overhaul of the City’s child welfare system, developing and implementing Improving Outcomes for Children, a new, single case management system, model of service delivery for DHS that is community-based, culturally competent and family centered. She also served as a critical partner in the City’s decade-long effort to co-locate the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit staff, DHS staff, the Children’s Alliance and members of the District Attorney’s staff to ease the process of reporting incidents of child sexual abuse for victims.
Under her leadership, DHS has reduced the number of dependent children placed out of state by 75 percent, improved child safety, increased permanency for children and youth and improved transparency and accountably for DHS. DHS also launched the Education Support Center to address the social and educational needs of children in the School District served by DHS.
During her tenure, DHS received international recognition by the United Nations when it was presented with the 2013 United Nations Public Service Award Second Place for improving the delivery of service. DHS was the only North American entity to be selected from more than 600 organizations and 82 countries. For her work, Ms. Ambrose was recognized with the Excellence in Leadership Award by Casey Family Programs.
“It has been my privilege and honor to serve Mayor Michael Nutter and the children and families of the City of Philadelphia. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with an amazing staff and I am proud of all that we have accomplished over the past six years,” said Commissioner Ambrose.
Mayor Nutter announced that Vanessa Garrett Harley, currently the Deputy Commissioner of the Children and Youth Division of DHS, will serve as the new Commissioner for the Department of Human Services. In her previous position, Ms. Garrett Harley was responsible for child welfare services provided to the children and families of Philadelphia in the hotline, intake, ongoing services and adoption divisions, which are strategically designed to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of DHS’s clients.
Prior to her time with DHS, Ms. Garrett Harley worked in the City’s Law Department as the Chair of the Social Services Law Group where she supervised the Health and Adult Services Unit and the Child Welfare Unit of which she previously worked. Ms. Garrett Harley is a 1985 graduate of Georgetown University and a 1991 graduate of Temple University School of Law.
“I am humbled and honored to be given this opportunity to continue to serve the children and families of this city. I am committed to ensuring the full implementation of our Improving Outcomes for Children Initiative and to solidify the community based approach to delivering quality child welfare services to our most vulnerable population,” said Ms. Garrett Harley. “In addition, as we move forward, my goal is to enhance and develop services to Older Youth who have often been under served but who are also in great need of our support.”
Commissioner Ambrose added, “I have worked side by side with Vanessa Garrett Harley and I have watched as she has earned the respect of staff and our community partners. I know she will continue to be an exceptional leader as the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services.”
Lastly, Mayor Nutter announced that Suzanne Biemiller, First Deputy Chief of Staff, will be leaving the Administration on July 7 to serve as the new Chief of Staff for the American Board of Internal Medicine. As First Deputy Chief of Staff, Ms. Biemiller worked closely with the Finance Department on the City’s efforts to sell Philadelphia Gas Works, oversaw the Policy Office and the Mayor’s Office of Grants and managed the overhaul of the Mayor’s Office of Community Services and the creation of the Mayor’s Office for Community Empowerment and Opportunity. She also served as the Vice Chair of the Community College of Philadelphia Board.
Before her appointment as the First Deputy Chief of Staff, Ms. Biemiller served as the Interim Chief of Staff. Prior to serving as Interim Chief of Staff, Suzanne Biemiller was appointed to the Cabinet level position of Director of Policy, Planning and Coordination by Mayor Nutter on January 1, 2010. She convened and coordinated the activities of the policy roundtable established within the Office of the Mayor and coordinated policy development among senior members of the Administration. She previously served in a grant-funded role at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and helped to develop Greenworks Philadelphia.
Before joining the Administration, Ms. Biemiller served as a senior program officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts where she managed the creation of the Philadelphia Research Initiative. Ms. Biemiller received her undergraduate degree from Williams College and has a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
“It has been an honor working with the Mayor and with countless others in the Administration who are committed to the ideal that government should work for everyone and not just the well-connected. Together we have worked to advance the public good and not the fortunes of a chosen few. We don’t do these jobs for the money or for the family-friendly hours or even for the stress-free work environment. We do them because we believe that Philadelphia is a great city and that its best days should be ahead of it and not long gone,” said Ms. Biemiller. “I am proud of the role that I played in creating Greenworks Philadelphia, advancing the sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works and overhauling the City’s anti-poverty and adult literacy offices—these efforts will make Philadelphia more economically competitive and improve the quality of life for our residents. I am excited by the challenges that lie ahead of me at ABIM, but I will miss my job here terribly.”