After over 30 years of service, Missoula City County Health Officer Ellen Leahy will be retiring at the end of June, and the Missoula Board of Health has released the names of four candidates who will be considered to replace her.

Board Chair Ross Miller began by praising the long career of current Health Officer Ellen Leahy.

“Our community was incredibly fortunate to have Ellen providing such great leadership and energy to the health department for over 30 years and Missoula is a healthier community because of her service,” said Miller. “Replacing her is a very large void to fill. That said, we're very fortunate that after conducting a nationwide search, we came up with four very highly qualified candidates that all have a wealth of experience and education in the public health field.”

Miller details the qualifications necessary to become the next City County Health Officer.

“The qualifications that we were looking for when we did our national search was a minimum of eight years experience in the public or community health field with at least five of those years of experience in management,” he said. “As far as education requirements go, that position requires either a Master's Degree in public health or related health field, such as environmental science or nursing.”

Miller said there are two candidates from Missoula and two from out of state.

“Eric Aakko is currently working in Greeley Colorado, and is a Director of the Division of Health Education and communication and planning for the Weld County Department of Public Health,” he said. “We also have a local candidate by the name of D’Shane Barnett. He's currently serving as the executive director of the all nations Help Center in Missoula.”

Miller introduced the final two candidates.

“Brian Hanft is currently serving as the director of the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health in Iowa,” he said. “We also have another excellent candidate from within our community by the name of Sarah Heineman. She's currently the Health Services Division Director, also the International Travel Clinic nurse practitioner, and is also the Operations Section Chief for the COVID-19 response at the Missoula City County Health Department.

Miller said the department hopes to have the new Health Officer on staff in April, so that he or she can work shoulder to shoulder with Leahy before she retires in June.

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