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County seeks input in search for health agency director 

Before SLO County puts out a call for candidates in the search for a new director to head its Public Health Agency, it wants to hear from the public.

The county's human resources division released an online survey and scheduled a public meeting where it plans to take suggestions and input on just what residents want to see from the next health agency director.

"There's been a lot of community interest and participation at the board meetings when it comes to community health issues," said Tami Douglas-Schatz, SLO County's human resources director. "We thought there was a really unique opportunity with this vacancy to hear from the whole community."

click to enlarge LEND YOUR VOICE SLO County wants to hear what qualities residents want to see from its next Health Agency Director. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HAKKUN
  • Photo Courtesy Of Hakkun
  • LEND YOUR VOICE SLO County wants to hear what qualities residents want to see from its next Health Agency Director.

The short online survey asks residents to select the top five qualities they'd like to see in the agency's next director and asks them which county district they live in. A public meeting seeking similar input will be held on Jan. 8 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the SLO Public Library. Douglas-Schatz said the results of both will be forwarded to the executive recruiters tasked with finding suitable candidates and eventually make their way to the job applicants themselves.

"We are going to let the candidates know that this is what our community and our [Board of Supervisors] is interested in," she said. "It will help us create a full profile, and we can evaluate candidates to see if they fit that profile."

The health agency director oversees multiple subdivisions within the agency, including public, behavioral health, and animal services. The agency's former head, Jeff Hamm, announced that he would leave his position in April. Hamm leaves after growing community outcry over a spate of deaths at the SLO County Jail in 2017, which prompted concerns over the medical and mental health treatment of inmates by both the agency and the SLO County Sheriff's Office.

Douglas-Schatz acknowledged that the increased interest in issues like mental health and the jail were part of the reason the county is seeking input at such an early stage in the hiring process. While the county previously sought stakeholder input on high-level hires in the past, she said that this was the first time such input was sought before the county even had an initial pool of candidates for the position.

If this latest experiment yields helpful results, Douglas-Schatz said the county might take a similar strategy in future hires.

"I think it could be useful," she said. "You always get a different perspective when you include stakeholders."

After hearing from the public, the county plans to begin accepting applications for the position on Jan. 24, identify top candidates for interviews in mid-March, and make a final selection in late March or early April. Δ


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