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Schenectady County names interim public health director

Schenectady County names interim public health director

Lisa Ayers started work Monday as Schenectady County's interim director of public health services. J

Schenectady County Director of Public Health Joanne Cocozzoli retired Friday after almost 33 years of service.

Cocozzoli had worked for the county since 1983 and has served as director of public health services since 2012.

Meantime, Lisa Ayers has been appointed as the county’s interim director of public health. She assumed her role Monday.

The Legislature recognized Cocozzoli for her service at December’s meeting, along with former Commissioner of Public Services Dennis Packard, who retired Jan. 8.

Legislator Karen Johnson, chairwoman for the Committee on Health and Human Services, worked closely with Cocozzoli for several years, and read the resolution to honor her.

“This is a very special person . . . Joanne, you and I go back a long way,” Johnson said at the meeting. “The department has developed a level of creativity and grant writing, as we are getting national grants where it’s one of three in the entire United States.

“Our work with the Guyanese population on diabetes is very well-known and regarded,” Johnson added. “All of that is because of having a strong leader and we want to thank you.”

“It’s been such a privilege for me to serve the Schenectady County residents for 32 and a half years,” Cocozzoli said after Johnson spoke. “I’m thankful for all the opportunities the county administration and the public health services have offered me to pursue my passion.”

Cocozzoli’s last day with the county was Friday, when she received her last paycheck. She will receive a final payout of $82,757.

On Oct. 30, the county posted an opening for the commissioner of public health services or director of public health services on the county website.

The public health position was intentionally posted as a search for a commissioner of public health services or director of public health services.

“We’re looking for either or,” Joe McQueen, director of public communications with the county, told the Gazette last month. “If the determination is made that the person who was believed to be the best to lead the department of public health services was not an M.D., they could still come in as a director, but if we have someone who comes in and is best believed to be the manager administrator and is an M.D., they can come in as the commissioner of public health.

“It depends on what kind of response we got,” McQueen continued. “That would make a difference in the salary, of course, but at this point in the process, those things are still unknown.”

A salary of $94,080 is budgeted for the director of public health, according to the county’s 2016 adopted budget.

“The salary is budgeted the same as the previous salary, but final salary will be commensurate with experience,” McQueen explained.

As of Monday, McQueen said no one had been hired to replace Cocozzoli, and the information from last month hadn’t changed.

“The county manager is still going through the interview process,” he said.

McQueen said Ayers, the interim director of public health, is a senior public health nurse who has worked for Schenectady’s Department of Public Health for 28 years.

Jack Frame, the director of environmental health with the county, will also help take on additional responsibilities until a permanent director or commissioner of the department is named.

“At this point, a time frame for how long Lisa will act as the interim director is unknown,” McQueen said. “It just depends when the county manager has found someone they believe is the right person.

“Until then, we’re all just pitching in.”

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