PORT TOWNSEND — Dr. Allison Berry is now the general public well being officer for each Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Former Jefferson County Well being Officer Dr. Tom Locke will proceed to help the departments as a deputy well being officer, however can be absolutely transitioning out the position of well being officer over the following month.
The Jefferson County Board of Well being voted unanimously on Thursday afternoon to approve the decision that appointed the 2 well being officers to their new respective roles.
“It’s an honor to step into this place,” stated Berry, who can be the Clallam County well being officer.
“I take public service extremely severely and I take the position as an impartial scientific advisor for this area very severely.
“I’m hopeful that I can deliver numerous energy to the place and that dedication to scientific independence.”
The county just isn’t required to conduct a full public search to rent a brand new well being officer and the choice relating to the hiring and firing of well being officers is as much as the board of well being, stated Philip Hunsucker, chief civil deputy prosecuting lawyer for Jefferson County.
The seven-member board of well being consists of all three county commissioners, one consultant every of Jefferson Healthcare fee and the Port Townsend Metropolis Council and two residents at giant.
The contract negotiations relating to Berry’s eventual wage for Jefferson County are nonetheless in dialogue. She declined to touch upon her present wage with Clallam, resulting from potential modifications stemming from her appointment to Jefferson County, she stated.
Berry has Locke’s full help in getting into the position as well being officer for your complete North Olympic Peninsula, a place he additionally held from 1996 to 2015, Locke stated.
“You not solely have to seek out somebody who’s a doctor, you even have to seek out somebody who’s up velocity on Covid,” Locke stated. “In that respect, Dr. Berry is the best candidate.
“It actually works nicely, each counties collectively are type of a stable full-time job. This was one of the simplest ways to ensure the continuity of providers.”
Locke, who’s 70, had hinted to Berry a few potential transition over the previous few years earlier than formally approaching her about it about two months in the past, Berry stated.
“Dr. Locke has been speaking about his plans to retire for a while,” Berry stated. “I feel he’s been scouting out for an acceptable substitute for a while.
“I feel he’s very passionate concerning the division and ensuring that there’s good continuity of operations. I feel once I stated I used to be within the position, I feel he turned extra comfy that now was an excellent time to step down.”
As deputy, Locke will proceed to be available to help Berry with Clallam and Jefferson public well being points, and fill in for her as wanted, in addition to for the well being officers in Kitsap and San Juan counties, because the 4 have partnered to help one another for years, Locke stated.
Locke will proceed to be the general public well being and security officer for the Jamestown S’Klallam and desires to proceed to help the general public well being departments as a substitute of absolutely retiring, as he has appreciated his lengthy profession of 45 years as a doctor and 37 years as a well being officer.
“I lengthy felt once I reached the age of 70, that might be the time to essentially reduce down on full time work and I’ve handed that milestone and it performed a big issue on this determination,” Locke stated.
“I’ve numerous different issues in my life that the calls for of the pandemic haven’t allowed me to be absolutely be concerned in.
“I’ve grandchildren and I’m actually wanting ahead to having time for actually these most vital relationships in life.”
Whereas Berry is formally the Jefferson County Well being Officer, Locke will share the duties of the position along with her over the following month to assist clean the transition as she steps in and he eases out.
“I feel it will likely be a reasonably seamless transition,” Locke stated. “It’s been an actual honor to serve and my highest precedence proper now’s to help Dr. Berry as she takes on these new duties.
“I’ve been working intently along with her for the final 5 years and I’ve the best respect and admiration for her and her skilled expertise and her dedication, particularly to the under-served,” he continued.
“I feel she’s simply performed a unprecedented job making an attempt to be the well being officer for everybody in Clallam County.”
Whereas each famous that the Clallam and Jefferson public well being departments have labored nicely collectively by means of the years, every county does have its personal challenges and priorities, corresponding to political variations and poverty ranges.
The county public well being departments will proceed to function individually from one another, Berry stated.
Whereas Jefferson has a extra skilled workers, the Clallam workers has been devoted and artistic in fixing issues as they come up, Berry stated.
“We simply work out a technique to get issues performed,” Berry stated. “There’s numerous good that may be shared between each departments.”
Berry is glad that Locke will have the ability to help, particularly if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens once more. She has joined the decision-making course of for the division and can be part of Locke on Mondays for his 9:45 a.m. briefings with the county commissioners relating to the pandemic.
“Transitions in a pandemic actually have to be dealt with with care,” she stated. “We’d like to verify there are not any balls dropped on this transition and I feel we will do this.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski will be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]