10/27/11 — Search to begin for new health director

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Search to begin for new health director

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on October 27, 2011 1:46 PM

It could take up to six months to find a replacement for the health director, county officials said Wednesday.

The Board of Health called a special meeting to respond to James Roosen's resignation.

Roosen, 56, cited health reasons for his departure. He has battled brain cancer for nearly two years and had surgery to remove a tumor in February 2010. He was appointed health director in 2003.

Evelyn Coley, director of nursing at the Health Department, was appointed interim health director until a replacement can be found.

This is not the first time she has been assigned the role. Ms. Coley said she has previously handled the responsibilities three times before, generally for a period of one to three months.

She will be compensated for assuming the additional duties, said Sue Guy, human resource director for the county. Effective Nov. 1, her salary will be $81,456, a four-step increase or approximately 10 percent of her normal pay rate.

Roosen's resignation date was given as Nov. 10, but he told the board he has accrued some vacation time that may push the date to the end of November.

"He will get paid for a vacation," said Borden Parker, the county's attorney.

The board also discussed the search process for a new director.

Ms. Guy said there are guidelines and procedures to follow, primarily through the state office of personnel, but requested applications be sent to her office to simplify the process initially.

Since it will be a national search, the time table has the potential to be a bit more extensive, she added.

"Because some of the ads are going into magazines, at least 30 days out and then give us another 30 days to source the applications .... to go to the state," she said.

Once they are approved at the state level, she said, applications would be forwarded to the board of health to determine which to interview.

County Manager Lee Smith suggested it would take even longer once other things are factored in, such as the approaching holidays.

"You're going to be closer to the end of January, particularly with sending them to the state. You could be end of February, first of March. It takes awhile when you do a national search," he said. "It depends on bringing people in, if they're coming out of state. It could be a four to five-month process very easily. It's just going to take awhile, so let's just understand."

"I think the last time, when we hired Mr. Roosen, it took about six months," said board member Jeffrey Kornegay.

The notion of forming a search committee was stalled, as the county's attorney recommended waiting to see whether it is warranted once the applications start coming in.

"It may define itself and we won't have to," Smith said.

Board member Steve Smith, one of three members departing at year's end, asked whether there were any rules dictating former members assisting in the transition.

"You will remain a member until your successor has been approved," Parker said. "The board may ask anyone they want to assist in the process."

"Our replacements have not been named as of yet," Steve Smith said. "I would hate to put that on a new group to have to make that type of decision without having a lot of information going into it."

He added that he and the other two departing members, Kornegay and Ira Thigpen, were willing to support the board throughout the process.

"I think we would be doing a tremendous disservice to Wayne County if we did not make ourselves available, if needed," he said.

Steve Smith also reflected on the last time the board participated in a search for health director, resulting in Roosen's being hired.

"It was not an arduous process but it took a lot of thought. I have never seen anyone who has interviewed as well as James Roosen did, or run the Health Department as well," he said, before directing his remarks to Roosen. "It was pretty much a done deal. The decision to hire you was an easy one to make."

The health director doled out credit to the Health Department's staff.

"Taking a step back, we are just doing a fantastic amount of jobs here under this roof," he said. "We're doing everything that private physicians do and providers just refuse to do -- providing birth control to people, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 -- that's amazing in my mind. ... There's a tremendous amount of things that public health needs to attack."

Roosen said he believes lawmakers need to be more aware of some of the issues being tackled by local health departments, and hopes to devote time toward that.

"I would like to go to the legislators, even after I quit," he said. "We have got a lot of STDs that if we weren't here, it would not be treated. Local physicians don't have room -- we're seeing about 46 percent of all pregnant women in this county. I just think that public health, I mean on one side, you have got physicians, on the other side you have got public health. We're trying to educate people so that they will understand what they need, where they need to go."