July 19, 2024

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El Paso County appoints new Board of Health member after commissioner claims she was hindered from interview process | Government

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The Board of El Paso County Commissioners on Tuesday appointed the president and CEO of a Colorado Springs-based nonprofit dedicated to fighting homelessness and poverty to fill a vacancy on the county Board of Health after one commissioner called the commission “out of touch” with the community and claimed she was hindered from participating in the interview process.

The board voted 4-1 to appoint Jack Briggs, president and CEO of Springs Rescue Mission, to fill a vacancy on the county’s nine-member Board of Health. The position is represented specifically by a member of the nonprofit, public, or private or public education sector. Commissioners Cami Bremer and Longinos Gonzalez — the commissioner liaisons to the Board of Health — Stan VanderWerf and Holly Williams voted to approve the appointment.


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Commissioner Carrie Geitner alone opposed the decision, pushing instead to designate a representative from local public education.

The Board of Health lacks a representative who can better understand the implications of public health decisions on teachers, students, school staff and parents, she said. For two years she has received emails and phone calls from education professionals wondering why a local education representative was not on the board, she said.

“To see those individuals completely ignored and tried to be shut out of this process has been very concerning to me. It is no wonder why people don’t trust our government, and it is no wonder why our schools are not willing to work with Public Health and not feel trusting of that relationship when they have asked to have a seat at the table,” she said.

After making a motion to instead appoint Brad Miller, an education law lawyer who works with D-49 and several charter schools, Geitner criticized the Board of County Commissioners for not “taking into account” her interest in interviewing candidates for the Board of Health vacancy. She accused the commission of purposely trying to keep her from the interview process, which she said was her right to participate in as a commissioner.


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The item appeared on the commission’s regular meeting agenda on May 10 “behind her back,” and was continued to Tuesday’s meeting, she said, giving her little time to conduct interviews.

Board policy states commissioner liaisons to volunteer boards are responsible for interviewing candidates for board vacancies, but other interested commissioners may also participate in the process.

Gonzalez said he offered the three other commissioners the opportunity to participate, and acknowledged that Geitner took him up on the offer.

In a statement emailed to The Gazette, Bremer said any interested commissioner had the opportunity to ask for and review applications, and schedule interviews with candidates.

“The item was continued” from the May 10 meeting “to allow this,” she said. “I have and always will follow our procedures.”

There has been tension between the community and county Public Health throughout the pandemic, as some residents and school and elected officials split deeply with statewide public health decisions such as hybrid learning and mask and vaccine mandates. El Paso County Public Health never implemented mask or vaccine mandates locally once the state handed back authority to counties to make those decisions.


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Geitner has been an especially vocal critic of El Paso County Public Health on the county commission, previously accusing the health agency and its board of being “too powerful” and not “answering to the people.”

On Tuesday she said the Board of County Commissioners was not listening to residents who also wanted an education representative on the Board of Health. She read from three letters sent to her from education professionals like Keith King, founder of Colorado Early Colleges; Tim Hannan, a member of The Classical Academy Board of Directors; and D-49 Board President John Graham, who supported that move.

Bremer and Gonzalez said Miller was, like Briggs, both a highly qualified candidate and well respected in the community.

“In the interviews we had a tough choice, but it was a very clear one,” Bremer said. “… In the few weeks since this has become a discussion that I was always willing to have, it has become apparent that (Briggs) was a very good, strong pick.”

Gonzalez noted Briggs has a background in higher education and said his leadership at Springs Rescue Mission affords him perspective on public health issues through the nonprofit’s work with the homeless population.

According to his LinkedIn page, Briggs holds a doctorate degree in education from New York University. Before taking the helm as Springs Rescue Mission’s president and CEO in October 2020, he worked at New York University in various leadership positions in security, public safety, emergency preparedness and others. A retired Air Force major general, Briggs was the director of operations for Headquarters U.S. Northern Command from 2014 to 2017.

The Gazette’s request for an interview with Briggs was unanswered Tuesday.


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Briggs wrote in his application that Springs Rescue Mission “engage(s) with the Board of Health on a frequent basis on behalf of our vulnerable population and I understand the importance of sound policy and decision making with respect to the health of the community.”

During his military service, he added, he “oversaw and implemented health care for my communities in the U.S. and abroad” and was responsible for the Department of Defense’s response to Ebola and Zika outbreaks. At New York University, he said, he “oversaw and implemented the Department of Public Safety’s responsibility to ensure security and safety of the 70,000-plus constituents working closely with local health authorities in 11 countries, particularly in New York City, as the lead for the university’s COVID-19 response.”

Geitner’s motion to appoint Miller failed on a 2-3 vote by commissioners before the board voted 4-1 to appoint Briggs.

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