While most of the public expected an update on the COVID-19 pandemic at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, they got even more than that, as Seneca County Public Health Director Vickie Swinehart announced she would be leaving her post later this year.
Public health workers have been tested and taxed throughout the pandemic physically and emotionally, putting a serious strain on the infrastructure intended to keep the public healthy. The pandemic was also one of the most unique sets of circumstances public health workers ever faced with once-in-a-lifetime implications.
While updating the public on the low number of cases in Seneca County, Swinehart said she would vacate her post as public health director in October. The exact date has yet to be determined, but she expected it to happen during the middle of the month. That is a little more than six months before she intended on retiring but came after the Board of Supervisors declined to provide her with another term.
The public health director is appointed to a six-year term, according to supervisors who spoke about Swinehart’s announcement after the meeting.
“Several weeks ago I was notified that the Board would not be re-appointing me to my position of public health director,” Swinehart said at the meeting. “I planned on retiring next May after I had 30 years of service, so I had a lot of thoughts about whether I should stay or go. I’ve decided that it’s time for my next chapter.”
Following the meeting, some supervisors voiced concerns about re-appointing Swinehart to a six-year term given her plans to retire in May.
The pandemic took its toll on Seneca County’s health department. It lost several key employees and more than 130 years of experience. “That was a huge challenge, and we worked through it,” Swinehart explained.
She expressed her desire to fulfill the promise of three-months notice as opposed to the traditional, two-week notice period. “I’ll be retiring in October, sometime in mid-October,” she continued. While a replacement has not yet been announced, or even sought out by the supervisors in public session, Deputy Director Scott King will help with the transition.
“I don’t think it’s fair to give two weeks notice, even though that’s all that is required,” she added. “I’ve been in this position for a long time, and there’s a lot of transition that has to happen. I will continue working with him on the stuff that I work on that no one else really knows about.”
Chairman Bob Hayssen, R-Varick, and Supervisor Paul Kronenwetter, R-Seneca Falls, were the only two to publicly thank Swinehart for her service after the update.