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Negotiations underway for new Flathead Co. Public Health Officer

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Posted at 4:29 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-05 11:11:09-05

KALISPELL — The Flathead County Health Board has authorized formal negotiations to hire Joe Russell as the county’s new Chief Health Officer after struggling to find a replacement for outgoing health officer Tamalee Robinson.

“We need somebody as quickly as yesterday and he’s the only one we know that is available,” Flathead Health Board Chairman Bill Burg.

A familiar face in the Flathead County Health Department is set to return as the county approved formal negotiations to hire Joe Russell as Chief Health Officer.

Russell previously served as Flathead County Public Health Officer from 1998-to-2017.

“He knows the county, the county knows him, there’s a great deal of confidence in him as a leader,” Burg told MTN News.

Burg says the approval of Russell comes after two primary candidates declined offers to become the county’s health officer, citing COVID-19, and salary concerns among other issues.

Burg said he first reached out to Russell about taking the position in early October.

He says if Russell would’ve declined, the county would’ve started the hiring process over from scratch, meaning another four-to-five months before a Health Officer was appointed.

“A series of events which were largely informal up until the last week or so and I expect that we will get a chance to ratify the contract next week,” Burg said.

Once formally approved, Burg expects Russell to start in his new role as Health Officer no later than Jan. 1.