Board of Health to Meet This Week Over Health Officer Candidate Recommendation

The Flathead City-County Board of Health and Flathead County Commissioners interviewed the candidate, Michael Chambers, last month

By Mike Kordenbrock
The Flathead City-County Health Department on March 11, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead City-County Board of Health is scheduled to meet May 3 to discuss its recommendation to the county commissioners over health officer candidate Michael Chambers.

Chambers was first interviewed by the board of health on April 19, and was interviewed by the county commissioners later that week. Chambers is currently the administrator for the health department in Macon County in northeast Missouri.

The Flathead County commissioners have indicated they are waiting to make their final decision until they receive a recommendation on Chambers’ candidacy from the board of health.

Initially the discussion had been scheduled for the board’s April 21 meeting, but Chair Roger Noble brought forward a motion to remove the item from the agenda and instead have the discussion in a closed executive session at a later date.

At the time Noble had mentioned his desire to be respectful of Chambers’ privacy. “I put myself in his shoes and I asked myself ‘Would I want to be evaluated for a job during a public meeting, and my answer was unequivocally ‘no,’” Noble said.

 He also said that he wanted to give a physician on the board a chance to interview Chambers. Dr. Pete Heyboer is the only physician on the board after Dr. Annie Bukacek’s resignation from the board became official on March 24.

The special meeting to discuss a recommendation is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3 beginning at 4:30 p.m. It’s unclear whether or not the meeting will be open or closed to the public. On April 29, Flathead County Commissioner Pamela Holmquist said by phone that earlier in the week she had raised concerns about holding a closed meeting, and said that the county attorney’s office had advised against the meeting being closed.

 Chambers has been the administrator for the Macon County Health Department since 2014. He previously worked as the operations manager for Samaritan Hospital, in Macon, Mo., from 2004 to 2015. Prior to that Chambers worked at North Kansas City Hospital as an environmental services supervisor from 2001 through 2004. He holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in business administration and health care management.

 Macon County has about 15,000 residents. Chambers acknowledged there would be a learning curve should he take on the job, but said he believes he can do the job well.

 The board of health’s personnel committee reviewed applications from at least eight different people for the health officer job, and five of those were interviewed in closed sessions by the board’s personnel committee. Chambers advanced to the public interview part of the process and if the county offers him the job and he accepts, he would replace current Health Officer Joe Russell. Russell came out of retirement in 2020 to replace interim Health Officer Tamalee St. James Robinson, who resigned amid what she called “a toxic environment being fostered between the Commissioners, the Board of Health and the Health Department.”

 Russell has said he does not plan on remaining county health officer beyond June 2022. Before his initial retirement in 2017 Russell had worked for the county health department for 30 years, including 20 as health officer.