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Pender County Health Dept. struggling to find leadership ; Interim Director doesn't show up for work

READ MORE: Pender County Health Dept. struggling to find leadership ; Interim Director doesn't show up for work
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BURGAW, NC (WWAY) - The Pender County Health Department's slogan is "helping those in need." Recently it appears it's the Health Department that needs the help. The news came Monday morning that the man who was supposed to serve as Interim Health Director changed his mind at the last minute and won't be moving to Pender County.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health recommended Russell Childers take over as the county's new Interim Director. On Friday, he accepted the position, but Sunday night, he changed his mind saying that he did not think he could fulfill the duties because of "prior commitments".

In early September, Childers visited Pender County at the request of Dennis Harrington, Deputy Director at the Administration of Public Health in Raleigh. Harrington told Nadine Maeser on the phone he suggested Childers serve as Interim Director until a permanent replacement was found.

"As of last Friday late afternoon I sent God and everybody an email that he was going down there," said Harrington, "and and bottom line is Sunday night he told me, 'Harrington, I've been thinking about this and I have six weeks of prior commitments between now and the end of November' and he said I can't do those people any justice being gone that much."

County Commissioners called an emergency meeting Tuesday night to discuss what's next. Jimmy Tate originally told us we could attend the meeting, but then locked us out once it got started.

After Tate got out of the emergency meeting he said, "Our legal counsel do advise us so we don't do that easily" in regards to calling a closed-door meeting. Tate said they take emergency meetings "very seriously" and that's why it was closed to the public.

In Tuesday night's meeting, Tate said they finalized the list of candidates for the health director position. Tate said, "One stands out to the board overwhelmingly and he is also coming highly recommended by Mr. Harrington in the state office."

Tate says they're planning on announcing the name of a new permanent health director Wednesday night at their meeting once official documents are signed.

The meeting on Wednesday starts at 6:00 p.m.

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Here's a news release that was sent out Tuesday afternoon from County Manager Rick Benton:

Burgaw, N.C. (October 5, 2010)

Board of Commissioner Chairman Jimmy T. Tate continues to collaborate with state and local public health leaders and County officials regarding filling the Interim Health Director position in Pender County. Tate, who also serves as the Commissioner’s liaison to the Board of Health, has planned a meeting with the Health Board Chair Bobby Watkins, Medical Director Dr. Nasrallah, the County Attorney and the County Manager for Tuesday afternoon to review the status of the position. “Until an Interim Director is named”, Tate says, “the Department’s Medical Director will handle all medical and health related matters, and the County Manager will handle all administrative matters.“

According to Tate “residents of the County and clients of the Health Department can continue to expect the highest level of service possible from our dedicated health professionals at the Department, and I am grateful for your patience and understanding during this time of transition.”

All questions should be directed to the Pender County Manager’s Office at 910-259-1200.

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