This week, we had the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for candidates to political offices representing us in the county, state, and nation. There is another election that takes place in March, of which little may be known. That is the election of members to the Washington County Board of Health. This board is responsible for setting the policies governing the operations and programs of the Washington County Health Department and for ensuring that the mandated programs governing public health be enforced.
The Washington County Board of Health members are not appointed by the county commissioners but are elected by the District Health Advisory Council or DAC. The DAC is composed of township trustees, the board of county commissioners, and the villages of Washington County. Every year the DAC meets for two purposes. The first of these is an opportunity for its representatives to hear from the health commissioner on the status of the Washington County Health Department and the activities during the previous year. The second order of business is to elect a board of health member or to elect representatives to the licensing council serving the health department. Each township, village and the board of county commissioners has one vote toward the election of board of health or licensing council members.
The board of health has five members and an alternate. One board of health member is elected each year and members serve a five-year term. One member of the board must be a physician. One member of the board of health and the alternate is elected by the Washington County Licensing Council. Membership of this council is composed of individuals representing those businesses that are licensed by the Washington County Board of Health and elected to serve on the licensing council by the DAC.
It is important for the townships and villages to have an active role in the election of board of health members as well as to hear about health department activities. The general funds of the health department rely in part from receipts of funding from townships. These funds have not increased in the past several years and are not expected to increase in 2013. Neither of the cities of Marietta or Belpre nor the county commissioners contributes to the general fund of the health department.
The current Washington County Board of Health members are Wilbert Antill of Warner who currently serves as president of the board was elected to the board in 1987 and is serving his fifth term on the board. Richard Daniell, Belpre Township, was elected in 1992 and is currently in his fourth term. Jim Rodgers, Little Hocking, was elected in 2005 and again in 2010. He is serving his second term on the board. Dr. Ken Leopold was re-elected to the board of health in 2011. He had previously served on the board of health from 1993 until 2006. Currently Steve Johnson represents the licensing council as alternate and has been attending the meetings in the place of Bob Powell of Little Hocking who has resigned from the licensing council. This year the board member and an alternate will be elected by the licensing council. The alternate attends the meetings but votes only when there is a conflict of interest or when the licensing council representative is not in attendance.
Longevity on a board of health is important for continuity of policies and for history of board of health proceedings. However, it is also important that new board members are occasionally elected to bring new ideas and perspectives to the board. We are fortunate in that we do have a mix of old and new members.
Any county resident who is interested in serving on the board of health could discuss the possibility of nomination with a township trustee and ask for his or her support. If a resident has an issue to present to the board of health or would wish to attend just to observe the proceedings, all meetings are open to the public. Meetings are held at the Washington County Health Department on the second Tuesday of each month beginning at 7 p.m. Board members receive compensation of $80 for each meeting they attend.
Kathleen Meckstroth is Washington County health commissioner and executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.