County board moves to hire new medical health officer

GENESEE COUNTY — The Genesee County Board of Commissioners has tapped a successor for the county’s outgoing health officer.

On Oct. 21., the county board unanimously approved a motion to hire Dr. Pamela Hackert as the new medical health officer for Genesee County. Hackert will be replacing Genesee County Health Officer Dr. John McKellar, who is retiring at the end of this month after serving the county since 2017.

Following McKellar’s retirement announcement in September, commissioners started a nationwide search to replace him. Hackert, currently the medical director for Jackson County, was recommended for hire by a subcommittee comprised of County Board Chairman Martin Cousineau, Commissioner Ellen Ellenburg and Commissioner Bryant Nolden.

Nolden, also the Genesee County Board of Health Chairman, said that Hackert’s credentials and extensive background as a county medical director makes her well-qualified for the new position.

“Dr. Hackert is a very outstanding individual,” he said. “Not only is she a medical doctor, but she has a Master’s in Public Health and also has a law degree. She has a wealth of knowledge…and wants to work with organizations to solve health issues in the community.”

Hackert, who has been leading Jackson County’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, was the former medical director in Oakland and Wayne counties and a former interim medical director with Washtenaw County. Commissioners said that they will be having conversations with Jackson County to see when Hackert can start in Genesee County.

Once her contract negotiations are finalized with Genesee County, Hackert will be the first woman to lead the Genesee County Health Department. She is expected to begin with her new post no later than Jan. 1.

Commissioners have also decided to combine the county’s health officer and medical director positions into one title, creating the new position of Medical Health Officer. This is the title Hackert will assume when she begins her tenure.

In the meantime, the county will be developing an interim plan to bridge the gap between McKellar’s retirement and Hackert’s arrival. An interim replacement for McKellar has not been named at this time.

McKellar, who originally planned to retire in the spring, decided to remain with the county throughout the summer and fall to help it navigate the COVID- 19 pandemic.

“(McKellar) recognized the situation with the crisis, and that leaving at that point in time would have put the county in peril,” said Board Chairman Martin Cousineau. “He stayed on as long as he could, and I appreciate what he’s done for the community.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, McKellar has advocated for social distancing and mask wearing to slow the spread of the virus. He supported Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay at Home orders in the spring and was also at the forefront of the county’s decision to cancel the 2020 Genesee County Fair when organizers made plans to host the event in August.