RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, will step down from her role with the department, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

Cohen said it was the right time for her to step down – not just for her personally but also for her team.

“DHS is in a strong position to carry out its mission,” she said.

Cohen said she will take a break and spend more time with her family.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve this state at such an important moment in history,” said Cohen. “I am grateful for Governor Cooper’s leadership, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished to improve the health and well-being of the state over the last five years. There is much work still to do, and I am so pleased the Governor selected Kody Kinsley to take the baton to run the next leg of this race.”

Cohen has led North Carolina through the COVID-19 pandemic after being appointed as NCDHHS secretary by Gov. Roy Cooper in January 2017.

Cooper’s office said Cohen saw the state through “some of the most challenging times in North Carolina history.”

Kody Kinsley (NCDHHS)

“Mandy Cohen has shown extraordinary leadership during her tenure and she has worked every day during this pandemic to help keep North Carolinians healthy and safe,” said Cooper. “We are stronger because of her efforts and I am enormously grateful for her service.”

A year ago, Cohen reportedly was on a shortlist of candidates to become the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary in the Biden Administration. The job ultimately went to Xavier Becerra, the former attorney general in California.

When asked at the time about her candidacy for that job, Cohen said she thought “it’s flattering to see North Carolina and the recognition of the work of the Department of Health and Human Services in the national context.

“It’s been an incredible effort by the team here in North Carolina, and I think everyone should recognize that. You know I am focused here on making sure the folks here in North Carolina stay safe, particularly during the holidays, and I’m going to keep focused on that,” she added then.

Kinsley, chief deputy secretary for Health at DHHS, will take over Cohen’s position on Jan. 1, 2022.

Kinsley has served with NCDHHS for four years while overseeing the opioid epidemic. He is a Wilmington native who previously worked at the U.S. Department of the Treasury under the Obama and Trump administrations.

He received his bachelor of arts degree from Brevard College in Brevard and a master of public policy from the Goldman School at the University of California at Berkeley.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released the following statement about Cohen’s move:

“Secretary Cohen’s leadership throughout her tenure at the DHHS has helped our state navigate turbulent times. She made herself available to legislators to answer questions and kept us informed about issues facing the department. She was also instrumental in successfully implementing Medicaid transformation. I want to thank her for her service to the state and wish her well in her future endeavors.”

This story will be updated.