PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The governor has appointed a new Cabinet secretary for the South Dakota Department of Social Services.

Matt Althoff of Sioux Falls has served as chancellor for the Catholic diocese of eastern South Dakota the past 13 years.

His uncle and godfather, Jim Ellenbecker, was the department’s secretary during the administrations of former governors Bill Janklow, George S. Mickelson, Walter Dale Miller and Mike Rounds.

Althoff will start on January 23 and succeeds Laurie Gill, who is retiring on January 8.

“Matt will bring empathy, humility, and a fresh perspective to the Department of Social Services,” Governor Kristi Noem said in a statement Friday announcing the appointment. “He recognizes that family is the foundational building block of our society and will keep that in mind every day. He has big shoes to fill following Laurie Gill’s long career of public service, but I am confident he is up to the task.”

The department has 1,562 full-time positions budgeted for the current year, with seven divisions that provide services to the public. The department also is responsible for the state Human Services Center at Yankton.

According to the announcement, Althoff assisted the late Bishop Paul J. Swain in developing the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House, an outreach to homeless in the Sioux Falls area, and he also worked extensively with the administration of several social ministries.

Althoff was raised in Yankton and received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame. He later received a master’s degree in education from the University of Portland. Immediately after college, he participated in a service teaching program, the Alliance for Catholic Education, while teaching in Brownsville, Texas, and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Althoff said he was “incredibly grateful” for the appointment.

“It will be my honor to advocate for the most vulnerable in our midst, to ensure that protection and aid is delivered to them in an impactful way, and to exercise good stewardship with our precious taxpayer monies,” he said in the announcement. “What a privilege it is to join the dedicated staff within the department who face challenges in the lives of those they serve but approach those challenges as opportunities to build stronger families.”

He will be Noem’s third secretary of social services in four years. Her original appointee, Gregory DeSautel, left after a few months. Gill started in July 2019, after previously serving as secretary of human services and commissioner of human resources.

Last week Noem announced the appointment of Melissa Magstadt as the new Cabinet secretary of health. There remains one Cabinet post — secretary of education — to fill. Tiffany Sanderson will start January 1 as president for Lake Area Technical College at Watertown.