The Buzz

Former State Rep. Melissa Rooker named executive director of Kansas Children’s Cabinet

TOPEKA - Gov. Laura Kelly announced Thursday that former Rep. Melissa Rooker will be the new executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet.

Kelly said she hopes to reinvigorate the organization, which helps inform funding decisions for children’s programs and supports the prevention of child abuse and neglect in Kansas.

Rooker, a Republican from Fairway, served in the Kansas House of Representatives for six years before she lost the 25th District seat to Democrat Rui Xu of Westwood in November.

“I worked closely with Rep. Rooker for many years and know her to be a steadfast advocate for Kansas children and families with a depth of knowledge on the issues impacting our children,” Kelly said. “She shares my commitment to expanding and improving early childhood opportunities across the state.

Kelly also named Kim Moore new chair of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund. Moore, who served as the president of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund in Hutchinson for over thirty years, has been praised for his efforts to leverage both public and private funds for programs to promote the health of young children and their families.

Kelly has made children’s programs a priority. Last month, the Democratic governor announced millions in new spending for child welfare as part of her proposed budget.

In a statement, Rooker said she’s honored to lead the cabinet and “help implement the governor’s vision for improving the health and well-being of our children and families.”

“Early childhood programs are critical to the development and success of Kansas children. I’m eager to build on our progress by bringing new ideas and energy to the discussion,” Rooker said.

Two years ago, former Gov. Sam Brownback sought to reduce funding to the cabinet. Annie McKay, president and CEO of the non-profit organization Kansas Action for Children, said the appointments and budget are a good sign of improving conditions for Kansas children.

“The magic of what’s happening right now in this moment is something we couldn’t have seen two years ago when we were in the thick of the battle fighting with an administration who didn’t care about kids and families,” McKay said.