Flathead County commissioners during a meeting Tuesday morning voted against the appointment of Michael Chambers county health officer.
Chambers is currently the administrator for the Macon County Health Department in Missouri and a candidate to lead the Flathead City-County Department.
He underwent public interviews with the board of health and the commissioners, but Tuesday’s vote effectively ended his candidacy, as county commissioners had the last word on his hiring. Last week the board of health voted by 4-to-2 margin against recommending commissioners that he be hired.
Among the concerns raised by board members voting against Chambers were his lack of experience in certain aspects of public health, and the potential impact it could have on staff and the functioning of the health department.
The only vote in support of the Chambers came from Commissioner Randy Brodehl. Brodehl brought the motion to appoint Chambers health officer. Commissioner Brad Abell supported the motion, saying he did it for discussion, but said nothing to Brodehl during the discussion, which was less than 20 seconds. The only person who spoke was Abell.
“I just thought I had to respect the health board’s decision,” Abell said, before he and Commissioner Pamela Holmquist voted against Brodehl’s motion.
Prothman, the recruiting firm hired by the county to find a health officer, is obligated to conduct another search, even if the county has to pay an additional fee, including travel costs for candidates.
The county has now been looking for a health officer for two years, and has conducted four different searches. Current Health Officer Joe Russell has come out of retirement to work temporarily after interim Health Officer Tamalee St. James Robinson resigned in 2020 amid what he called “a toxic environment fostered between the Commissioners, the Board of Health and the Department of Health. ”
Russell worked in the health department for 30 years, including 20 as a health officer before he retired. Russell said he has no plans to remain in the position until June 2020.