Bryan turns down health officer position
Department will be without health officer after Nov. 8
By Eric Young
Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
MIO — Denise Bryan has decided not to accept the position of health officer for District Health Department No. 2, after the Board of Health voted to hire her last month.
Board chairwoman Kathleen Vichunas told the board at its Oct. 22 meeting that Bryan had turned down the position.
“After careful consideration in regard to the health officer position with District Health 2, I am withdrawing my candidacy at this time,” Vichunas read from Bryan’s letter to the board.
Bryan stated that it was not an easy decision, however she did not say why she turned the position down. The board voted 6-2 at its Sept. 24 meeting to hire Bryan, with John West and Beverly Scott casting the dissenting votes. No specific salary range was given in last month’s motion.
The discussion of Bryan’s status came up as the board was discussing the status of current health officer Lynnette Benjamin, as board member Bill Thompson made a motion to terminate Benjamin as of Nov. 8.
“The state notified us several months ago that they asked that Lynnette not be on board after the 14th of November,” Vichunas told the board.
Following the motion, there was some discussion of whether or not the state would allow Benjamin to stay on in a temporary status until a new health officer was hired, as long as the department was in that process. However, Benjamin said she had already made plans to leave.
“I’ve already communicated to our board chair that my plans would be I would be done on the 14th,” Benjamin said.
She said her last day in the office would be Nov. 8, as she would be using vacation time for the remaining days.
The motion passed unanimously.
With those two developments, the board would be left without a health officer after Nov. 8. The board originally interviewed three candidates for the position, and West made the motion to hire Jim Edmunds, one of the three candidates.
“The state sat here (and said) he was 100 percent qualified,” West said. “He said he would do it for four or five years.”
Scott seconded the motion.
Board member Michael Hunt said he thought the department should go another route.
“I would think maybe we should advise the state what our intentions are, see what advice they might offer us,” Hunt said. “Whether or not we should hire Mr. Edmunds or re-interview, or we should repost it. What’s their suggestion?”
“Why would you re-advertise when we still have a pool?” Scott asked. “Why would you not want to hire someone that’s 100 percent qualified?”
Board member Bill Thompson said just because someone may be qualified for a position doesn’t mean they are the right person for the job.
“Each one of us has different decisions to make on how those three people would fit in,” Thompson said. “My biggest concern with the individual that we’re discussing right now is that he’s been out of the actual, hands-on control of a health department. He’s been around the edges of it. He was a salesperson recently and he’s designed things. But he hasn’t had a hands-on. That’s why I was going with Denise, because she had hands-on.”
“I don’t want a hatchet man, and that’s what he sounded like to me,” Thompson added. “When he came in for interviews, he said, ‘I’m going to come and fix it. I’m going to come in here and cut the waste away.’ Well, I don’t believe that’s what we want. I want someone here, in my opinion, that will be with us, so when I’m not sitting in this chair, this thing doesn’t have to come up again. I don’t want a five-year person. I want a 10- or 20-year person.”
Scott said to call Edmunds a hatchet man was “very disrespectful.”
“That’s not cutting people,” she said. “It may be adding people. Because the positions that he’s had, you ought to look at his positions and see what he’s done. He’s a people person. He works with the people. He’s not a hatchet man. Hasn’t been in any of his jobs. But if you check the records, you won’t get that.”
Board member Jeff Matthews said he wasn’t for hiring Edmunds either.
“This is twice I’ve seen Mr. Edmunds approach the agency,” he said. “I don’t believe he’s a good fit for this agency.”
The motion to hire Edmunds failed with a 6-2 vote, with West and Scott casting the only “yes” votes.
Later in the meeting, the board voted 7-1 to have the department’s medical director, Dr. Russell Bush, serve as the interim health officer once Benjamin leaves until a new health officer is named.
West cast the dissenting vote.
The board plans to contact the state regarding where it should go next in the process.