New Public Health Director to start end of June
Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) employee Sofia Pereira has been named the department’s new director of Public Health and will be stepping into her new role June 27. Pereira is replacing Michele Stephens, who was promoted to Assistant Director of DHHS in March after serving in an interim capacity since April 2020.
Pereira previously worked as a legislative analyst for the department from 2014 through early 2017, at which time she left to work as a community manager and then a program director for She Should Run, a nonprofit that focuses on increasing the number of women who run for political office. She returned to DHHS in 2019 as an Emergency Preparedness Analyst for the Public Health Branch and was promoted to Program Coordinator for the same program less than a year later.
During the county’s COVID-19 response, Pereira has served as the Operations Chief working closing with Stephens and Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman and overseeing approximately 200 staff working in communicable disease investigations, testing, human services and vaccination.
In her new capacity, Pereira will focus on guiding Public Health programs and services through the new lens of COVID-19, while integrating lessons learned during the pandemic and continuing to improve the community’s health and preparedness. She will also advocate for continued investment in Public Health by the state and federal government and work with community partners on the Public Health Strategic Plan and Community Health Improvement Plan, which focus on long-term efforts to address health-related issues in the community.
DHHS Director Connie Beck said, “Sofia has well-established relationships at both the local and state level, which will be beneficial in her new role.”
As Public Health Director, Pereira will be responsible for the Communicable Disease Program and its continued expansion due to COVID funding; the Public Health Clinic; Public Health Nursing; Environmental Health; Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health programs including the Women, Infants & Children nutrition program; the department’s state-of-the art laboratory; and a variety of grant-funded programs focused around improving the health of our communities.
Pereira holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Humboldt State University.
Councilmember Sofia Pereira Steps Down to Become Humboldt County's New Director of Public Health
Council Member Sofia Pereira will be stepping down from her position on the Arcata City Council, effective Friday, June 25.
Pereira was first elected to the Arcata City Council in 2014 and served as a Council Member for over six consecutive years, serving as Mayor in 2018 and 2021. She has represented the region on Governor Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors and has served the community on many boards for organizations including the Humboldt Waste Management Authority, Arcata House Partnership, the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, in addition to her service with Humboldt State University Liaison’s Working Group and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District's Water Quality Task Force.
City Manager Karen Diemer describes Pereira as, “a champion for housing, protecting those most vulnerable in our community, committed to breaking barriers to build racial equity and maintaining strong local infrastructure to support residents and businesses,” and added, “Sofia has a sharp mind for developing sensible public policy that will serve this community for generations to come. She will be missed as an Arcata City Council Member, but I am certain we will continue to benefit from her leadership at the County level."
In a letter submitted today, Pereira shared the difficulty of her decision to resign in order to accept her appointment as Humboldt County’s new Public Health Director:
I am submitting my resignation from the Arcata City Council, effective Friday, June 25, 2021. Starting June 27, I will begin a new chapter as the Public Health Director for the County of Humboldt, Department of Health and Human Services. I am honored and excited to take on this new role to serve our community and improve our community’s health and wellbeing. However, this decision was not taken lightly and prompts me to reflect on our time together since December 2014.
Serving the people of Arcata as a council member and your mayor has been an immense privilege. I am grateful to have been entrusted with the stewardship of our city budget, services, and planning for the future. I am grateful to all who engaged with the city’s work, pushing us to do better and be better.
Together we advanced the development and protection of affordable housing and created the tenant-based rental assistance program to keep our low-income neighbors housed. We expanded our city trail system and improved safe routes to school. We created new partnerships to support our most vulnerable, connecting mental health staff with our police department, and strengthened partnerships with service providers like Arcata House Partnership to expand services for the homeless.
I am grateful to have shepherded some of these achievements, and yet, I could not advance these policies alone. I want to express my appreciation for my current and former council colleagues, our city manager, and city staff for their dedication to our city and for what I learned from each of them during my time on the council.
I have the utmost confidence that the city council will continue to advance the work of making Arcata a more equitable, healthy, and livable community for all Arcatans. Arcata, you are in good hands! And I will continue this mission for Arcata and the County. My career in public service began well before I was an elected official, and I will continue to serve the public’s interest beyond my time as an elected official.
Thank you again for the opportunity to lead and guide our community through many complex challenges. The work to improve our community’s health and wellbeing will take all of us, and while I will no longer be on the city council after June 25th, my commitment will continue.
PS: I hope to see many of you at a Crabs game or the Saturday Farmers’ Market!
More information will be provided as it becomes available. For more information on the Arcata City Council and to review the Council’s upcoming meeting agendas, please click here.
To learn more about Sofia's new role in serving the community, please click here.