EDITOR’S NOTE: St. Clair County’s board of commissioners will meet at a special time of 4 p.m. this Thursday for its regular meeting. In the past, regular meetings have been set for 6 p.m.
St. Clair County commissioners may fill not one but two major positions for the county’s health department at their meeting Thursday.
But one of those is only temporary.
Officials have been waiting for the final go-ahead for both the public health officer and medical director roles at the health department since the county board of commissioners voted to split them from one position. The change followed concerns over a COVID mask mandate issued in January.
Both titles are currently held by Dr. Annette Mercatante, whose contract ends this month.
An employment contract to name Liz King, a registered nurse and nursing and community health director at the department, as the county’s new health officer is already on tap for final approval this week.
The other position, however, would only be filled on an interim basis, according to County Administrator Karry Hepting, after the chosen candidate, Dr. Najibah Rehman, was offered another position.
“It’s a difficult position to fill. We were very happy with Dr. Rehman. We felt like we got a great candidate,” Hepting said. “Unfortunately, other employers recognized that as well, and she did get another offer that was attractive to her.”
For now, Rehman will fill the role temporarily while the county reposts the director position.
As of Monday, a proposed contract had not been posted online with county board agenda materials. Hepting said they were still working on details, including the length of term for the interim director role.
The administrator said they have to factor in when Rehman will start her next job, as well as the length of time needed to attract new applicants. She wasn’t sure how long that would take.
“We’ve got the posting out. It’s going to depend on how many candidates we get,” Hepting said. “It’s really hard to know. … We’re trying to get it filled as quickly as possible. We’re lucky to get an interim agreement.”
Rehman was most recently a district health director for the state of Virginia and medical director for the city of Detroit.
Applicants for St. Clair County’s position need to have a master’s in public health or a background in preventative medicine and must be physicians. The position also allows the individual to work part-time for up to 16 hours a week.
Hepting said that Rehman had been helpful in sharing the county’s new posting and informing officials of additional places to advertise the opening.
The medical director role was reposted on the county’s listing last week, and that posting expires July 20. Candidates for both the chief health department roles require state approval, which the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has previously reported to be an average review period of 30 days.
King’s contract, as proposed for health officer, would begin July 1 and end in June 2025 with an annual salary of $107,090. Her contract was OK’d at the county board’s last meeting June 2 for full approval this week.
It is under the role of health officer authority that a public health order can be issued, in addition to a long list of duties the position holds.
The county board will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday in the meeting room on the second floor of the administrative building, 200 Grand Rive Ave., in Port Huron.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.