LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he has appointed Cindy Gillespie, former health-care adviser to Mitt Romney, as the new director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he has appointed Cindy Gillespie, former health-care adviser to Mitt Romney, as the new director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.


Gillespie will start March 1 at an annual salary of $280,000. She will replace John Selig, who announced plans to resign last year but has stayed in the position while Hutchinson searched for a replacement.


"After a national search and after interviewing a number of top candidates, I am confident that Cindy Gillespie has the breadth of experience, management capabilities and the right ideas to lead Arkansas’s largest agency," Hutchinson said in a statement Wednesday.


The governor said Gillespie has "nationally recognized expertise in the reform of Medicaid and she has extensive experience in managing complex programs."


"Most importantly, she has the heart and passion that is needed for an agency which is on the front line of critical services that make a difference in the lives of Arkansans every day," he said.


Gillespie said in a statement, "I’m honored to have the opportunity to join the impressive team Governor Hutchinson has brought together to serve the people of Arkansas. I am looking forward to working with the highly dedicated and capable employees at the Arkansas Department of Human Services, along with our partners throughout the state, to promote the health and well-being of all Arkansans, especially those most in need."


Gillespie served as a senior adviser to Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts and played a leading role in the development of that state’s health care reforms, commonly known as "Romneycare" and acknowledged as one of the inspirations for the Affordable Care Act.


Her appointment comes as Hutchinson seeks to obtain permission from the Obama administration to make changes to the state’s version of Medicaid expansion, which uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for low-income Arkansans. A news release from the governor’s office notes that Gillespie led Massachusetts’ interactions with the federal government during development and implementation of its health-care reforms.


Her writings on health policy issues have appeared in numerous national publications.


Gillespie also has served as a senior executive for the Salt Lake Olympic Committee,which hosted the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games, and as a director at the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, which hosted the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.


She currently works in the Washington, D.C., office of the Denton law firm, serving as leader of its Health Policy and Health Insurance Exchange Teams.


A native of Columbus, Ga., she is a graduate of Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville, Tenn., and has a master’s degree from Auburn University in Alabama.