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Susan Kelly, a veteran Harford County Health Department employee, was expected to be appointed the county’s new health officer Tuesday evening.

Kelly, who has more than 35 years of service with the agency, has been serving as acting health officer since early 2008.

She was deputy health officer prior to taking over leadership of the agency following the resignation of Dr. Andrew Bernstein.

The health officer is appointed by the Harford County Council, which serves a dual role as the county Board of Health. The appointment is also subject to approval by the state secretary of health and mental hygiene.

Following Bernstein’s abrupt resignation in January 2008, the council adopted a resolution in February 2008 to form a search committee for a new health officer. Bernstein left after complaining about a lack of funding for his agency.

The health officer search committee consisted of Council President Billy Boniface, Councilman Richard Slutzky and Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti; Lorraine Costello, county government director of administration; Dr. Rosemary Bonsack, a physician and former state delegate; Dr. Peggy Vaughn of Upper Chesapeake Health Center and Dr. Peter Sybinsky of Harford Memorial Hospital.

Boniface said the search committee interviewed 10 candidates from across the country.

The committee narrowed the selection to Kelly and a candidate from Nebraska and then recommended Kelly, whose appointment was expected to be approved during Tuesday evening’s county council legislative session.

Contacted Tuesday afternoon, Kelly said it would be premature to comment until after formal action on her appointment is taken by the council.

Kelly will be the second non-physician to head the local health department; state laws were changed 30 years ago ending a requirement that local health officers be medical doctors.

The late Thomas M. Thomas, who was health officer from 1981 to 2003, was the first non-physician to head the local agency. Kelly was a member of Mr. Thomas’ staff.


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