Former state health commissioner Richard Daines was found dead in a barn on his Dutchess County property Saturday, his former press secretary tells City Room. State police found him in the barn, where he had been taking down Christmas decorations. At a press conference this morning, Mayor Bloomberg told reporters that he believed the cause of death was a heart attack, but that has not been officially confirmed.

Dr. Daines, 60, stepped down as health commissioner last year when Governor Cuomo took office; his three year stint as health commissioner was marked by high profile involvement in the 2009 swine flu outbreak, controversial hospital downsizing, and a foiled push to implement a state tax on sugary sodas and other drinks. You may best remember Daines from this funny 2008 video in which he plunked a big chunk of simulated fat on his kitchen counter to illustrate the deleterious health effect of soda pop.

Daines, a former Mormon missionary from Utah, graduated from Cornell Medical School in 1978 and worked for many years at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. He was scheduled to be a visiting scholar at the New York Academy of Medicine next month. In a statement, Governor Cuomo said, "Dr. Daines worked tirelessly to improve the health of all New Yorkers, and his knowledge and deep faith has left a lasting impression on all those who worked with him. This is a tremendous loss not just for the state, but for the entire medical community."