Benton Sworn In As NC Health Secretary

A former chief deputy in the state environmental department has been sworn in as the state's top health official.

Dempsey Benton succeeds Carmen Hooker Odom as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Odom said in May that she would step down after 6 1/2 years to join a New York-based health research foundation.

Benton spent 17 years as Raleigh's city manager before he was appointed to the Number Two post in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2001. He left the job in January, and Governor Mike Easley named him to head the health department in May.

Benton will oversee the state's second largest department in terms of state spending.