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La Plata County announces two finalists for health department director

Public invited to meet candidates June 8
La Plata County will host a “meet-and-greet” event with the two finalists for the director of the county’s public health department June 8 at the Administration Building at 1101 East Second Ave. (Durango Herald file)

La Plata County has announced two finalists for the health department director position, and is inviting the public to meet them and provide input at an event on June 8.

The selection of a director, slated for the third week of June, will be the second major step in standing up the county’s new public health department following the impanelment of the La Plata County Board of Health in February.

Whoever is selected will lead the county’s new public health agency, which will rise from the ashes of SJBPH following the district’s dissolution, effective Jan. 1.

Finalist Amy Rice is currently employed as the laboratory director at Indian Health Service in Crownpoint, New Mexico.

The other, Tiffany Switzer, is the deputy executive director of SJBPH.

After reviewing input submitted by the public and feedback provided by the Board of Health in an executive session, La Plata County commissioners will select a candidate.

Three members of the Board of Health, including the president and vice president, resigned mid-May after county commissioners reclaimed hiring powers for the director position.

Rice could not be reached for comment Wednesday. According to her LinkedIn profile, she is a doctor of osteopathic medicine and holds a master’s in public health focused on epidemiology as well as a Master of Science in environmental and urban geosciences focused in GIS, hydrogeology and soil.

Switzer has worked at SJBPH for nine years and started in an entry-level position. She has served as deputy executive director since 2020.

“I understand public health in Southwest Colorado, especially La Plata County, really well,” she said. “I am excited for this opportunity because I strongly believe in the continuity of the current services and programs offered by public health.”

Continuity between SJBPH and LPCPH, which Switzer hopes to make a priority, has been the source of some heartache in the process so far.

Tiffany Switzer, giving a flu vaccine in 2018, is the deputy executive director at San Juan Basin Public Health and a finalist for the position leading the county’s new health department. (Courtesy of San Juan Basin Public Health)

Much to the chagrin of both parties, most SJBPH employees have been kept separate from the new advisory board of health so as to avoid any whiff of favoritism that might benefit SJBPH employees in the hiring process. It was in an effort to alleviate this stressor that commissioners seized hiring control.

Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH, had applied for the position at La Plata County Public Health, but accepted a job in Fort Collins before finalists were chosen.

The services offered at the existing agency are excellent, Switzer said, and her familiarity with them at all levels of the organization would serve her well.

Those who want to meet the candidates and provide input may do so at an event from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday (June 8) in the Training Room of the county Administration Building, 1101 East Second Ave. in Durango.

rschafir@durangoherald.com



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