Ben Chandler to retire as head of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky; board names COO Allison Adams to succeed him

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky for the last eight years, announced Thursday that he would retire at year’s end and be succeeded by Allison Adams, the philanthropy’s chief operating officer.

“After a very thorough process, it was clear to everyone on the board that Allison was the perfect choice to be the organization’s next leader,” said Marianne Smith Edge, chair of the foundation’s Board of Directors, said in a news release.

“We are excited to see what the future holds, and know the foundation will be in good hands. Allison’s experience, strategic skills, and dedication to disease prevention will be strong assets for the organization. The Board is grateful to Ben and all that he has done for the foundation over the last eight years. His vision to lead the organization into policy advocacy has resulted in many wins for the health of Kentuckians.”

Chandler, who will turn 65 on Sept. 12, became head of the foundation in 2016, after heading the Kentucky Humanities Council. Before that he was state auditor, attorney general, the 2003 Democratic nominee for governor and U.S. representative from the Sixth Congressional District. As attorney general, he sued to recover the charitable assets of Kentucky Blue Cross Blue Shield when it was bought by Anthem Inc. The $45 million settlement was used to create the foundation in 2001.

“It has been an incredible experience to lead the Foundation that I helped make possible during my time as an elected official,” said Chandler, of Versailles. “We have achieved things that many deemed impossible. While I am so proud of what we have accomplished these last eight years, I know there is still much to be done. I have the utmost confidence and trust in the organization’s future with Allison at helm.”

Adams, of Maysville, was director of the Buffalo Trace District Health Department and president of the Kentucky Health Department Association, during which time she worked on legislation to transform Kentucky’s public-health system. A registered nurse, she joined the foundation in 2020 as vice president for public policy and was named chief operating Officer in January 2023.

“I am so honored and thrilled to have been chosen to take the reins of such a dedicated and respected organization,” Adams said. “It has been a privilege to work with Ben these past four years to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians. Our state still faces many health challenges, and I will not waiver in my commitment to creating a commonwealth where every single person has what they need to live a healthy life.”

Under Chandler, the foundation became more active in lobbying state government, including the legislature. The news release said, “He was a strong advocate for the historic cigarette-tax increase passed by the state General Assembly in 2018, as well as the tobacco-free school campus bill in 2019 that resulted in a large increase of school districts covered by comprehensive tobacco-free campus policies. “

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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