Topeka Roger Werholtz, acting secretary of the Department of Corrections for the last four months, will continue to lead the agency under Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Sebelius on Tuesday added the 20-year department veteran to her Cabinet. Werholtz was named acting secretary by Gov. Bill Graves when Charles Simmons left the position last September to become warden of the prison near El Dorado.
Sebelius said she retained Werholtz because of his experience in the department.
As acting secretary, Werholtz watched the state's prison population increase to 98.4 percent of capacity.
Meanwhile, the department's 3,100-person work force has 100 vacancies, which Werholtz attributed to competition from better-paying public safety agencies.
In the Legislature, the committee that handles corrections issues has proposed to let the department expand the El Dorado prison. Some legislators have also talked about diverting nonviolent drug offenders from prison.
"I think there'll probably be an active exchange of ideas on how to cope with our prison population," Werholtz said.
Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said, "In difficult times like this, it is valuable to have someone who knows a lot about the operations of the department."
Werholtz, 53, worked in social services and community corrections before joining the Department of Corrections in 1982. He served as a deputy secretary from 1987 until his promotion by Graves last year.