Montgomery County close to filling health officer vacancy

The search has been going on since September, but Montgomery County, Maryland, is close to appointing a new health officer.

In a weekly briefing Wednesday, Dr. James Bridgers, who is currently filling in as acting health officer, said that a candidate has been interviewed by state health officials. The next step is to get the candidate before the council for approval.

Officials are not releasing the name of the person selected for the job, but County Executive Marc Elrich said the candidate will be dealing with a range of issues beyond COVID-19.

Elrich said there’s been a focus on dealing with mental health and behavioral issues in schools.

“The fact is, obviously, this mental health crisis is affecting far more than students,” he said.

The job of health officer was left vacant when Dr. Travis Gayles stepped down last September.

During the search to find Gayles’ replacement, Elrich and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Earl Stoddard said two candidates dropped out of the hiring process, citing concerns about public pressure and harassment of health officials across the country.

Stoddard said the candidate still remaining told officials that the D.C. area is “a very attractive opportunity” because of the proximity and contact with the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies.

“I also want to recognize what Dr. Bridgers has done,” Stoddard said, calling Bridger’s performance “exceptionally good.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, no meeting between the county council members and the candidate had been scheduled.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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