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Cowlitz County appoints three new, non-elected board of health members

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County Administration Building

The Cowlitz County Administration Building.

When the Cowlitz County Board of Health meets at the end of the month, it will have doubled in size.

The county commissioners appointed three non-elected members to the board on June 21, following a new state law requiring the expansion. A fourth appointee from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe could join later.

The commissioners interviewed six of the 17 total applicants and chose Lindy Campbell, Kelly Lane and Mary Jane Melink to fit the positions in three categories of provider, public health consumer and other community stakeholder.

Prior to the state law taking effect Friday, the county board, like most others in the state, was made up of the three commissioners. Only elected board members can vote on permit, licensing and application fees under the expansion.

During the interviews, the commissioners asked candidates what they thought were successes and failures addressing recent public health issues; how they would verify public health information and recommendations; how their recommendations for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic would differ; how they would deal with state rules they disagree with; and how they would react to commissioners’ final decision they disagree with.

When discussing the COIVD-19 response, Campbell and Lane were critical of lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates. Melink said the county, and nation, did not strike the right balance between individual rights and persuading folks they need to do some things for public good.

The commissioners’ full interview with the six final applicants is available at kltv.org and begins just after the two-hour mark in the recording of the June 21 meeting.

Appointees

Before retiring in 2017, Campbell was a school nurse at Longview School District for 11 years, following several other nursing positions. Campbell wrote in her application that the position is an opportunity to use her 41 years of experience as a nurse to support positive outcomes in the county.

Although most residents could say they have been a consumer of public health, the legislation specifies the category consists of residents who self-identified as having faced significant health inequities or as having lived experiences with public health-related programs.

Lane wrote in his application he has cared for a disabled veteran and elderly mother and mother-in-law and has experience navigating health care systems including Medicaid, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and private health insurance companies. His experience with those systems and “numerous mistakes, inconveniences, delays and inefficient healthcare situations” would bring new ideas to the board, Lane wrote.

The third position was open to a representative of county organizations, including community-based organizations or nonprofits that work with people experiencing health inequities, active, reserve or retired military members, business community or environmental public health regulated community.

Melink is the director for The Health Care Foundation, which awards grants to nonprofits to support programs promoting physical and mental well-being. The Longview-based foundation has awarded more than $14 million in grants since 1984.

A former Longview City Council member, Melink wrote in her application that her 20 years at the foundation has allowed her to understand many of the community’s health needs from the agency level, where much of the work to improve health happens.

The board meets quarterly, with its next meeting set for July 26.

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