Following a heated debate at a previous Board of Supervisors meeting over the public health officer position, Del Norte County will be getting a new public health officer.
Dr. Warren Rehwaldt, who formerly held the position, will take it back June 10, said Dr. Gary Blatnick, director of Del Norte County Health and Human Services, on Tuesday. Rehwaldt will replace Dr. Thomas Martinelli, who had been the public health officer even though he has lived in Santa Barbara for about two years.
In April, Blatnick said he and County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina had been talking with Rehwaldt and other physicians about the possibility of hiring a public health officer who lived within the county if that was the direction the Board of Supervisors wanted to take.
The public health officer serves as the county’s medical and public health authority to enforce local health orders, ordinances and statutes. The officer assesses the health status of the community, provides medical direction to the Public Health Department and helps plan local environmental and public health service and education programs.
Martinelli was hired as public health officer in 2005 and saw Del Norte County through outbreaks of H1N1, or swine flu, four years ago, and pertussis, or whooping cough, three years ago. He moved to Santa Barbara in October 2011, but said he still keeps a home in Del Norte and spends about a week each month here.
The county pays Martinelli about $1,400 every two weeks.
Martinelli’s residency was called into question April 23 when the Board of Supervisors approved a volunteer-based deputy public health officer position. Supervisor Roger Gitlin pulled the item off the consent agenda and unsuccessfully tried to introduce a motion that would require the public health officer to live in the county at least 180 days out of the year.
Also Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors ratified the appointment of Ocean World owner Mary Wilson to the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority Board, an action already taken by the Crescent City Council.