Press Room

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Announces New Leadership Appointments

(Oct. 1, 2015) Salt Lake City, Utah – Edward Ehlinger, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, was elected president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) during the association’s annual meeting. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Public Health, was elected as secretary-treasurer at the same meeting. Jay Butler, chief medical officer and director of the Division of Public Health at Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, became president-elect. All appointments take effect immediately.

Ehlinger has served as Minnesota’s health commissioner since January 2011. Previously, he was the director and chief health officer for Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota, as well as director of personal health services for the Minneapolis Health Department. He has been honored with the Albert Justus Chesley Award from the Minnesota Public Health Association, the Advancement of Justice Award from the Hennepin County Bar Association, the first Ed Ehlinger Award from CityMatCH, and the Physician Communicator Award from the Minnesota Medical Association. In Minnesota, he is famous for his “Pitch the Commissioner” tours, where he travels to different counties and invites their citizens to join him in a game of horseshoes as they share ideas about what their communities need to be healthy.

Fitzgerald is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and a fellow in anti-aging medicine. Prior to her current role as George’s health commissioner, Fitzgerald served on the Georgia OB-GYN Society’s board and as its president. She also worked as a healthcare policy adviser with House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Paul Coverdell. As a major in the U.S. Air Force, Fitzgerald served at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan and the Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. In 2012, Fitzgerald led the launch of Georgia SHAPE, a childhood fitness and obesity reduction program that received formal commendation from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition in 2014.

Butler was appointed chief medical officer and director of the Division of Public Health at Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in 2014. Previously, he was senior director for community health services at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage, where he was also a clinical infectious diseases consultant and medical director for infection control and employee health. Butler served as a U.S. Public Health Service medical officer for more than 23 years, and participated in a number of emergency deployments, such as heading the H1N1 Vaccine Task Force at CDC and being a team co-leader during the CDC responses to the SARS outbreak of 2003, avian influenza in 2004, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In 2010, he received ASTHO’s National Excellence in Public Health Award.   

Jewel Mullen, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, became immediate past president; and Terry Cline, commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, became past president. All ASTHO offices are one-year positions.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in state-based public health practice.