Arizona Democratic Gov. Hobbs appoints nation’s first ‘chief heat officer’ after state’s ‘hottest summer’ on record

Arizona Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs announced last week the nation’s first “chief heat officer” as part of her administration’s new “Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan.

The governor explained that she released the new plan in response to last year’s temperatures, noting that Arizona experienced the “hottest summer… ever recorded.” Hobbs claimed that the state’s “temperatures have been rising steadily from decade to decade, and each year brings an increase in heat-caused and heat-related deaths and illnesses from the year before.”

Hobbs’ executive order created the “nation’s first Chief Heat Officer position to coordinate the implementation of this Plan,” including “heat-specific efforts between agencies on shelter, energy, health, and disaster response.” The new position, which “will be instrumental in the Plans’ implementation,” will work alongside the Governor’s Office of Resiliency.

The OOR’s director, Maren Mahoney, said, “It’s critical that Arizona build a sustainable and resilient state.”

“I’m proud to lead this effort across state agencies and in partnership with various sectors, including health and human service providers, the business community, and scientific experts to protect everyday Arizonans and ensure we have the tools we need. Together, I know we can tackle the challenges that lay ahead of us and build a thriving state,” Mahoney remarked.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Dr. Eugene Livar, who has been with the department since 2012, will fill the new chief heat officer position.

“As the state’s Chief Heat Officer, Dr. Livar will oversee the implementation of the plan and work to coordinate partnerships between the state, county health departments, local municipalities, communities, the private sector, and community-based organizations. ADHS has also hired a heat relief coordinator that will serve as the statewide point-of-contact for county coordinators and will develop training for community navigators focused on improving access to human service providers,” the department reported.

The ADHS praised Livar for his “forward-thinking approach and commitment to public health preparedness.”

“I’m excited to take on this role and this important work to make sure Arizona is prepared as possible for this upcoming heat season and beyond,” Livar stated.

The governor’s plan also includes creating “six new, solar-powered, cooling centers constructed with shipping containers.” The cooling centers will be mobile, so they may be relocated to different areas of Arizona as needed.

Hobbs stated, “What I heard time and again from everyday Arizonans was that our state’s old approach was not enough.”

“As a social worker who has dedicated my life to protecting everyday people, I knew we had to take action. Arizona is no stranger to the heat, yet we have always risen to the challenge, protected our neighbors, and built a sustainable and thriving state. This time will be no different,” she noted.

Republican and former state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita called the governor’s announcement “an all-time level of absurdity — a ‘chief heat officer.’ It has to be a joke…we live in the DESERT.”

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