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Board of Health recruitment committee meets to review final Director of Public Health candidates, refer to county executive, mayor for final appointment

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department moves closer to getting a new Director of Public Health.

Three finalists for the Director of Public Health position answered questions for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department staff and a group of community partners on Jan. 18.

Each candidate had a half hour to answer 8 questions developed in advance. Marissa Karras of Karras Consulting facilitated the interviews. Staff and community partners gave input for the questions. Staff and community partners provided feedback on the candidate’s leadership attributes, health equity approach, and communication style via separate forms.  

The Board voted to split the Director of Health role into two positions on Sept. 6. The two roles will allow for the unique strengths and skill sets necessary to operate an innovative local health jurisdiction. Administrators serve as the executive and strategic leaders of health jurisdictions while state statute sets the requirements of the health officer role, which includes being licensed to practice medicine in Washington state.

On Jan. 31, the Board of Health recruitment committee will share the feedback with the Board of Health in a closed executive session.

“One goal of restructuring the executive leadership of the Health Department was to increase and diversify our candidate pool,” said Board of Health Chair Catherine Ushka. “This allowed us to reach out to the best people to lead our nationally recognized Health Department. We succeeded in meeting this goal, attracting top public health leaders from around the country.”

33 people applied for the position. Of these, the executive recruiter narrowed the pool to 14 for interviews with the executive recruiter. From this process 3 candidates advanced to the staff and community interviews.

  • Of the total candidate pool:
  • 55 percent (18) of candidates were from out of state; 39 percent (13) were in state; and 6 percent (2) were international.
  • 55 percent were Black, Indigenous or People of Color.
  • 58 percent were male; 42 percent were female.
  • In terms of educational attainment, the pool included 3 with Bachelors, 21 with Masters, 2 JD and 7 PhD.

The Board of Health recruitment committee, under the leadership of Board of Health Chair Catherine Ushka, has led the recruitment process for the Director of Public Health and the Health Officer. Responsibilities for the final steps of the Director of Health position now shift to the County Executive and Tacoma Mayor.

Next, Board Chair Catherine Ushka will refer the finalist names to Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, who will make the final appointment. After they make their decision, both the County Council and City Council confirm the appointment, as outlined in the interlocal agreement governing the Health Department.

At the request of the candidates, we will not disclose their names or further information to protect their existing employment relationships. More information may be available after the Mayor and County Executive announce their appointment.

Keep an eye on future City and County Council meeting agendas for votes to confirm the selected Director of Public Health.

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