Humboldt County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich.
Humboldt County has officially begun the process of finding its next health officer, having posted the job opening and set dates for candidate interviews next month.
Health Officer Teresa Frankovich, who stepped into the then part-time position in January before the COVID-19 pandemic morphed it into one of the most high-profile, important and intensive jobs in Humboldt County, announced her resignation last month, though she agreed to hold the position until the county hires her replacement.
While she has at times faced vitriolic backlash on social media and at some public meetings, Frankovich said her decision was based on a need to be there for her 70-year-old husband and an aging parent, recognizing the pandemic is likely to necessitate an intensive, time-consuming local response well into next year.
In its pamphlet
advertising the position, which comes with an almost $200,000 annual salary, the county notes candidates must have a medical degree from a school in good standing, a license to practice medicine in California (or the ability to obtain one within three months of getting the job) and six years of public health or medical program administrative experience. A master’s degree in public health, certification in a California Medical Board recognized specialty and prior working experience as a public health officer are desired, but not required.
“During times of emergency, these positions can be politically charged, therefore, the ideal candidate will have a high level of emotional intelligence, demonstrate diplomacy and work with groups within a community: elected officials, businesses, individual constituents, elderly, homeless, families, schools, public safety, emergency management, universities, tribal communities, etc.,” the pamphlet states. “The ideal candidate should have a broad picture of the social determinants of health: mental health, education opportunities, economic stability (occupation/employment stability), food insecurity, housing, access to healthcare, etc.”
The pamphlet somewhat comically warns the position “could require” more than 40 hours of work a week “due to public meetings or health emergencies.” (Frankovich has reportedly been working more than 80 hours a week almost without fail since the pandemic began.)
People in the local medical community have both raved about Frankovich’s job performance to date, describing her as a smart and tireless public servant and skilled communicator. They have also expressed concern about the county’s ability to recruit an able replacement in the midst of a politically charged pandemic.
“They are challenging positions in the best of times and have become very difficult with such a high politically polarized response to the pandemic,” Open Door Community Health Centers CEO Tory Starr wrote in an email to the Journal
after Frankovich’s resignation in which he lauded her performance. “She naturally projects competence and empathy. She took over the position at a critical time and has done terrific work in helping prepare and manage the county’s response to the pandemic. I think it will be a challenge to find a replacement for her.”
But others hope that Humboldt County’s relatively good standing — low rates of disease transmission and hospitalizations compared to the rest of the state combined with substantial local testing capacity and healthcare infrastructure development — will draw qualified candidates to step forward. And, as the county posted the job this week, the state announced it was lowering Humboldt County’s risk assessment to “minimal,” among the lowest in the state.
In addition to agreeing to stay on in a full-time capacity until the county hires a replacement, Frankovich has also indicated she’d be willing to work indefinitely part-time under the county’s next health officer.
The county’s job posting notes the position will remain open until filled but it sets an application deadline of Oct. 28 and encourages candidates to apply as soon as possible. Interviews, it states, will be held Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, and candidates need to be available for both days.
The county has indicated its Human Resources and Health and Human Services departments will put together a panel with "subject matter experts" to vet candidates' qualifications and, ultimately, put a hiring decision forward to the full board of supervisors, which will have the final say.
View the full job pamphlet here
, and find more about Frankovich’s tenure and resignation here