Mar 7, 2023 - Politics

Hobbs picks new DCS director after firing first one

A mug shot of a man with short brown hair in a blue jacket, white shirt and blue tie.

David Lujan. Photo: Courtesy of Children's Action Alliance.

The Department of Child Safety (DCS) is getting its third new leader of 2023 after Gov. Katie Hobbs nominated former Democratic lawmaker David Lujan on Monday as the agency's director.

State of play: Hobbs originally picked Matthew Stewart, a former case manager and training supervisor at the agency, to lead DCS shortly before she took office, but fired him in February.

  • She named Michael Wisehart, who led the Department of Economic Security under former Gov. Doug Ducey, as DCS's interim director.
  • Lujan is expected to start April 3, per the governor's office.

Zoom in: Since 2021, Lujan has served as president and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance (CAA), a nonprofit whose mission is to identify and eliminate "barriers to the well-being of children and families."

  • He worked in the Arizona House from 2005-2010, rising to minority leader, and was appointed in 2012 to fill the remainder of a Senate term in the legislative district that Hobbs represented in the House.
  • He also served as executive director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, a CAA affiliate.

Catch up quick: Stewart's termination came on the heels of revelations last month about his tenure at the agency by Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, who chairs the Committee on Director Nominations.

  • Hoffman found Stewart received a letter of reprimand for "insubordination and unauthorized absence" as a training supervisor at DCS, and that openly gay employees whom he'd fired filed complaints against him.
  • Hobbs denied to reporters last week that she removed Stewart because of the issues the Senate committee revealed, but refused to say anything more than his firing was in "the best interests of all parties involved."

Yes, but: Just because Hobbs appointed Lujan as an agency director doesn't mean he'll get a thumbs-up from the Republican-controlled Senate, which must confirm her nominations.

  • Senate President Warren Petersen created the Committee on Director Nominations in February to recommend approval or rejection of all agency head nominees. Under previous governors, executive nominations were heard by relevant committees before moving to the Senate floor.
  • The committee last month recommended against confirming Hobbs' Department of Health Services nominee, who was rejected by the full Senate, and postponed a vote on her nominee to run the Department of Administration.

What they're saying: Lujan said he's unconcerned with the confirmation process and already reached out to GOP members.

  • "Even though I've served in the Legislature in a partisan role, I think protecting children is not partisan. Strengthening families is not partisan," he told Axios Phoenix.
  • Hobbs spokesperson Josselyn Berry said there shouldn't be a problem getting Lujan confirmed because he's "highly qualified and highly respected."
  • Hobbs last week was dismissive of the committee's intentions, telling reporters: "These are not folks who are focused on the actual qualifications of these people. They are focused on personal vendettas or embarrassment or whatever else they can come up with."

The other side: Hoffman didn't respond to a request for comment on Lujan's nomination.

  • Executive nominees can serve for a year without Senate confirmation.

Between the lines: Prior to taking office, Hobbs said she wanted to enact reforms at DCS, particularly regarding what she called a trend in which the agency disproportionately removed children from Black families.


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