WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donna Shalala, a former U.S. secretary of health and human services, will lead the nonprofit Clinton Foundation after its previous chief executive resigned in January, former President Bill Clinton announced on Friday.
Shalala, who has a decades-long friendship with the Clintons and served in Bill Clinton's cabinet, will become the foundation's president and chief executive officer in the coming months. Last year, she announced she would soon be ending her 14-year tenure as president of the University of Miami.
"I don't know in my long life that I ever worked with anybody that has quite the combination of policy knowledge and concern, political skills, of a personal touch with people, and a sense of innate fairness that inspires confidence," Clinton said, as Shalala stood smiling alongside him.
The announcement was made onstage at a youth conference for the Clinton Global Initiative, an offshoot of the foundation, at the University of Miami.
Shalala, who jokingly introduced Clinton as "the supreme guardian of the galaxy," did not comment on her appointment during her remarks onstage.
Hiring her puts the family's philanthropy in the hands of a trusted ally at a time when Hillary Clinton, who oversees the foundation alongside Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, is mulling a run for president as a Democrat in 2016.
Bill Clinton set up the foundation in 2001 to focus on global issues such as climate change and healthcare. It has since helped markedly reduce the cost of drugs for people with HIV in the developing world.
Hillary Clinton's political opponents have recently criticized the foundation for once again accepting new donations from foreign governments, which are disclosed on its website, after she stepped down from her role as U.S. secretary of state in 2013.
Her critics warn the donations could create a conflict of interest should she end up in the White House. The foundation says disclosing of its donors and its refusal to accept anonymous donations should allay those worries, and that they would reconsider its donation policy if Clinton runs. Green groups have been troubled by the foundation's ties to energy companies.
In January, former foundation head Eric Braverman stepped down after about a year and a half in the job and was replaced temporarily with a longtime Hillary Clinton aide.
Shalala led the Department of Health and Human Services for eight years, and before that was chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.
(Reporting by Emily Stephenson in Washington and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Andre Grenon)