Former Walmart comms leader Dach joins HHS as senior counselor

Leslie Dach, formerly the communications leader at Walmart, will join the Department of Health and Human Services as a senior counselor to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

The Department of Health and Human Services has brought on former Walmart communications chief Leslie Dach as a senior counselor.

Dach will report to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in the newly created role and work with senior department staff on initiatives including the upcoming second open-enrollment period on Healthcare.gov.

"Secretary Burwell talks about not only retaining top talent but recruiting top talent, and this very much fits in that vein," said HHS deputy assistant secretary for public affairs Tait Sye, adding that Dach's appointment comes after the department revised its leadership structure last month

Sye did not disclose further details about Dach's role or start date.

Dach’s appointment comes after the department’s reputation was badly damaged last year during the botched rollout of healthcare.gov and several state websites developed to help consumers buy insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act. Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned in April, and Burwell was nominated to replace her shortly thereafter. 

Looking back

"Leslie Dach has a platform that is rivaled by few other corporate communicators. All eyes are on Walmart for nearly everything it does, especially now in the sustainability area, meaning Dach's actions have the power to influence how other companies handle the same issue."
-PRWeek Power List 2009

Dach left his role as Walmart’s communications leader after seven years at the company in June 2013. He joined the retail giant in 2006 as EVP of corporate affairs and government relations. During his tenure, he worked on initiatives such as increasing the sourcing of US products, making Walmart’s food healthier, and working with major suppliers to reduce packaging.

Former White House communications director and Hill+Knowlton Strategies US CEO Dan Bartlett replaced him in the top communications position at Walmart, using the title EVP of corporate affairs, last year.  

While Dach was Walmart’s communications leader, the retailer appointed Burwell as president of the Walmart Foundation, its charitable arm. She reported to Dach in that role and oversaw its charitable giving and global women’s economic-empowerment initiatives. Burwell has also served as president of global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Prior to Walmart, Dach served as worldwide vice chairman at Edelman, where he worked for 17 years. He also held a top communications position on now-Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and advised the Clinton White House on communications issues.

During his tenure at Walmart, Dach was a regular fixture on PRWeek’s Power List, holding the top spot in 2011.

This story was updated on July 23 at 5:30pm ET to include a comment from an HHS spokesman. It was also updated on July 24 with additional information about the rollout of Healthcare.gov and Sebelius' resignation as HHS secretary.

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