Mike Willden joins The Perkins Company following a 45 year career in Nevada State service. Most recently, Mike served nearly five years as Chief of Staff for former Governor Brian Sandoval. Prior to being Chief of Staff, he served for 13 years as the Director of Health and Human Services, the largest state agency, and was appointed as DHHS Director by three Governors. Mike lead the Executive staff and cabinet through 2 regular and 2 special sessions of the Legislature and has taken part in every Legislative Session since 1981, preparing budgets and testifying on Health and Human Services issues. Mike is a proud native Nevadan.
Mike Willden is a national public health, education, state budget and governmental policy expert. Mike retired in January, 2019 following an impressive 45-year career in Nevada state government. Mike’s public career included more than four decades of service within the Department of Health and Human Service, including 13 years as the Director, a gubernatorial appointment which spanned three different governors, finishing in 2014. Mike ended his state service employed as former Governor Brian Sandoval’s Chief of Staff, a position he held for nearly five years.
For 25 years, Mike worked in the state’s Welfare Administration Division, beginning as a case worker and taking on a number of positions until becoming the state Welfare Administrator. In this capacity, Mike managed the Division of Welfare and Supportive services and multiple agencies which are now housed with the Divisions of Child and Family Services and Aging and Disability Services. In 2001, Mike was appointed the Director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services by then-Governor Kenny Guinn. Governors Jim Gibbons and Brian Sandoval reappointed him to that position when they were elected in 2007 and 2011, respectively.
While the head of DHHS, Mike oversaw the state’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2013. Mike was an influential voice in Governor Sandoval’s decision to opt-in to the Medicaid expansion, marking the first Republican administration in the nation to do so. As part of this implementation, more than 250,000 Nevadans were granted access to Medicaid which cut the state’s uninsured rate in half.
As the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Mike led the executive staff and cabinet through two regular legislative sessions and two special sessions. In Mike’s final 2 years serving as Chief of Staff, he helped put together a $8.1 billion General Fund state budget that marked the highest in Nevada history. During his tenure in the top executive office, Nevada experienced dynamic population growth driven by the state’s aggressive economic development policies. Mike personally worked with members of the Nevada-Supreme Court in securing a technical grant from the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments to support a Commission that analyzed the state’s juvenile justice system. The final recommendations yielded a united legislative effort by all three branches of government to better protect public safety and improve outcomes for youth in our juvenile justice system by making the system more effective and cost-efficient. Mike also spearheaded the statewide effort to combat the national opioid epidemic. Nevada’s four prong approach to tackling this crisis, which claimed the life of one Nevadan every day, was heralded as one of the nation’s most comprehensive and progressive policies in the ongoing battle against prescription drug abuse.
Mike hails from Lincoln County, Nevada and is a proud native of the Silver State. He currently resides in northern Nevada with his wife and youngest daughter and enjoys spending time outdoors with his family.