Chief Executive Officer Biography


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Danette R. Smith
Dannette R. Smith, CEO,
Department of Health and Human Services

Dannette R. Smith was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Department of Health and Human Services for the state of Nebraska in February of 2019. She brings more than 25 years of executive leadership experience in large, complex organizations to the State. She spearheaded the development of the Department's fourth annual business plan, which supports Governor Pete Ricketts' strategic vision.  The plan outlines her four-pronged approach to leading the Department. 

  • Create an integrated service delivery system.
  • Establish and enhance collaborative relationships.
  • Align DHHS teammates under our mission of Helping People Live Better Lives.
  • Enhance the Department's internal infrastructure to provide more effective, efficient, customer-focused services to Nebraskans.

Smith seeks to be a catalyst for creating innovative programmatic and technological solutions in human service organizations. In addition to improving the overall operational structure of DHHS, she currently oversees several large-scale initiatives including:

  • The Eastern Service Area (ESA) transition for case management services under the Division of Children and Family Services (CFS)
  • Redesign of the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC) System
  • Development of an improved information technology infrastructure  

Prior to joining the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Ms. Smith was the Director of the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services. She has also worked in a leadership capacity in Seattle, WA, Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, and Cook County, IL.

A true advocate of public and community service, Smith serves on the boards of the Healing Place of Hampton Roads, Norfolk, VA, and ATTACh (the Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Children), Minneapolis, MN.

Smith holds a Bachelor's of Science in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and a Master's of Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Under the auspices of the Child Welfare League of America, she participated in a child welfare leadership program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. She also attended the County Administration Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her two daughters, whom she loves dearly, reside in North Carolina, and her dog, Mr. Bentley, enjoys traveling the country with her.​


Stephen Talarico​, Executive Assistant
(402) 471-9433​