Orange County's top health officer Monday was appointed to take on similar responsibilities for the state, the governor's office said.
Mark B. Horton, 59, a pediatrician with more than 28 years of experience in public health, had been the county's health officer since 1999.
Horton could not be reached for comment Monday, but several county officials lamented the imminent loss.
"It is with much sadness that I must inform you today" of Horton's departure, began a memo from Health Care Agency Director Julie Poulson to the county Board of Supervisors.
"We at the Health Care Agency will greatly miss our friend and colleague."
Horton, who will take his new post Nov. 7, replaces Dr. Richard J. Jackson, who left the state after 14 months as its top health official.
Several health officers statewide complained at the time that the governor's administration had failed to provide sufficient support for the post.
When advised of the governor's choice, Los Angeles County's public health officer, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, praised Horton's selection. "Dr. Mark Horton is a very experienced public health executive and a good choice," Fielding said.
Horton will advise the governor, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and the director of the Department of Health Services on public health issues.
The Department of Health Services oversees the state's Medi-Cal program, which provides healthcare to low-income people. The department also enforces standards at hospitals and nursing homes. Its public health responsibilities include overseeing food safety, combating tobacco use and tracking infectious and communicable diseases.
Before coming to Orange County, Horton was Nebraska's director of public health for seven years until 1997. He joined the county after two years as vice president for community programs, director of the Center for Child Protection and director of the Center for Healthier Communities for Children at San Diego Children's Hospital and Health Center.
Horton's new job, which pays $200,000 a year, does not require Senate confirmation.