KY State Senator Named Commissioner for Tennessee Department of Health

UPDATED: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee made an unexpected announcement for many Kentucky political watchers this week as he named Kentucky state Senator Dr. Ralph Alvarado as commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), effective January 16.

“Dr. Alvarado’s significant clinical and hospital management experience make him well-positioned to lead the Department of Health, and I appreciate his service to Tennesseans,” Lee said in a news release announcing the move.

The position will take Alvarado from Kentucky, and his state 28th District state Senate district, which will soon trigger a special election. Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Alvarado will remain the representative of Senate District 28 through the first week of the 2023 Legislative Session and up until he resigns or takes his oath of office in Tennessee’s executive branch.

“His presence is critical to the start of our 2023 session because historically, key legislation has been crafted and passed at this time,” Stivers added.

In a statement sent to Kentucky media the day after a statement was sent by the Tennessee Governor, Alvarado said he has cherished his time in the Kentucky legislature.

“Serving the people of the 28th Senate district has been the honor of my life,” Alvarado said in a statement on Wednesday. “I am incredibly thankful for my time in the Kentucky Senate since first being elected in 2014. I will always be grateful for my constituents’ continued faith and trust in me. Working alongside my Senate and House colleagues is an experience I will always treasure, and the friendships I have developed will last a lifetime.  The hardest part of this transition is knowing I will no longer be the voice for my constituents in Frankfort upon my resignation. I will continue representing the 28th District during the early stages of the 2023 Legislative Session.

“The opportunity presented to me by Governor Lee is a chance to have an even more significant impact on public policy,” Alvarado continued. “In making the difficult decision to accept this offer, my focus remains on faith, family and public service. I’ve ultimately determined that taking the role of commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health is the right thing for my family and me. Ultimately, it is an excellent opportunity to lead.”

Alvarado joined the state Senate in 2015 after defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. R.J. Palmer in an upset election. The Winchester Senator served as Gov. Matt Bevin’s running mate in 2019, and considered a run for governor in 2023, according to sources. Alvarado has led the Senate Health and Welfare Committee as chairman since 2019.