The Shasta County Board of Supervisors fired embattled county Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom following a closed session Tuesday afternoon.
The vote was 3-2 in favor of terminating Ramstrom, board Chairman Les Baugh announced. Voting to dismiss Ramstrom was Baugh and Supervisors Patrick Jones and Tim Garman. Voting against the termination were Supervisors Mary Rickert and Joe Chimenti.
“By a vote of 3 to 2, the Board of Supervisors has taken action to terminate county Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom’s at-will employment with the county without cause,” Baugh said.
The discussion of Ramstrom’s job performance was the second known time by the board in recent months. Supervisors conducted a performance evaluation on March 15. Baugh on March 1 requested that the board conduct Ramstrom’s evaluation in closed session.
Contacted after the meeting, Ramstrom said she came to work Tuesday and had been watching the board proceedings online.
“Well, you know, I’m actually digesting it at this point,” she said.
She acknowledged that she saw her eventual termination developing since March and has been preparing.
“And so I’ve been putting feelers out. And people have approached me, so I’ll have to find another job,” she said.
Shasta County health officer speaks out: Board sets new closed session over her job
Ramstrom said that she did not feel the board’s action was deserved. “Absolutely not,” she said.
She said it will be difficult to talk to staff about her departure.
“That’s going to be the hardest part, that conversation and they know now I’m sure. My feeling is that our staff are amazing, and they’re gonna keep doing amazing work. And I’m so proud of them and appreciate everything that they’ve done in this pandemic, and they helped protect this community and they should be commended,” she said.
Tuesday’s item was listed on the agenda as “public employee discipline/dismissal/release.” Ramstrom said in a statement last week the item referred to her.
Support for COVID mandates, vaccines often drew criticism
Ramstrom’s support of mask mandates, vaccination requirements and other safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic was criticized by some county residents, who were vocal in their criticism at past Board of Supervisor meetings.
Ramstrom said she, retired Health and Human Services Health and Services Agency director Donnell Ewert and Public Health Branch Director Robin Schurig “were never more restrictive than the state required; we followed the state law. Period.”
Pandemic pushback: How Shasta County Health Officer Karen Ramstrom’s job came under attack
In an email on Friday, she said: “I am hoping for a favorable outcome on Tuesday.”
Supervisor Mary Rickert last week said she supported Ramstrom. “I thought she did an exceptional job during the pandemic in trying to do all she could do to provide for the health and safety of all Shasta County residents,” Rickert commented.
Ramstrom is not the only county health officer in California to face backlash over coronavirus issues. The health officer in Orange County, Dr. Nichole Quick, resigned in June 2020 after receiving threats at public meetings and on social media, the Associated Press reported.
‘We’re coming for you’: For public health officials, a year of threats and menace
At the time, Quick was the seventh senior health official to resign in California since the pandemic began as they faced unprecedented pressure, criticism and threats, Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the Health Officers Association of California, told the AP.
In addition to the California public health officials who have resigned, one was given a sheriff’s escort to provide security, DeBurgh said.
“We certainly have had angry comments at meetings before, especially around vaccines, but this level of threat, of having to have a sheriff’s escort, we haven’t seen it before,” DeBurgh told the AP.
Threats toward Ramstrom in 2020 also rose to the point that the former Health and Human Services Agency Director Donnell Ewert asked Redding police to watch her home.
Ewert himself retired last month, in part because of the bitter political climate that arose during the pandemic in the county.
Jones has said Ramstrom’s job performance had generated email complaints to him from the community, more complaints than any other county employee.
Jones said in March that he thought Ramstrom had done a poor job of communicating with the public on some coronavirus issues, including the after-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Record Searchlight reporters Michele Chandler and David Benda contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Shasta County supervisors fire health officer Karen Ramstrom