Melnick takes charge of county health department

Moves in county department will save $262,000 per year

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Dr. Alan Melnick

Dr. Alan Melnick is now at the helm of Clark County Public Health.

Beginning today, Melnick, the county’s health officer since 2006, is filling the department’s new top position: health officer/administrator.

Consolidating two health department administrative positions to create the new position is one of several staffing changes that will save the department more than $262,000 per year.

“I think we’ll be leaner and meaner,” Melnick said.

The reorganization efforts began after former Director John Wiesman left the county in April to become Washington secretary of health. Deputy Director Marni Storey was tapped as the interim director, but last month, Storey announced she was leaving the county to take a job in Washington County, Ore. Her last day was Tuesday.

In July, the health department’s leadership team — composed of Storey, Melnick and Jeff Harbison, the administrative services manager — proposed consolidating the director and health officer positions. The proposal also eliminated a vacant coordinator position and an administrative assistant position that became vacant after a July 31 retirement.

The Clark County commissioners unanimously approved the proposal.

After Storey announced her plans to leave the county, the leadership team explored whether the department would benefit from additional leadership changes. They decided to eliminate the deputy director position and bring two of the department’s program managers — Tricia Mortell and Janis Koch — onto the leadership team, Melnick said.

The reorganization doesn’t change the number of people in the leadership team — which now consists of Melnick, Harbison, Mortell and Koch — but it does lower the total salary cost of the team by nearly $74,000 per year.

Melnick’s annual salary of $156,132 will not change. Harbison, Mortell and Koch, however, will be moving up to a higher position classification, earning them each a pay raise of between $3,600 and $4,200 a year. Even with the raises, their pay will be less than what the department paid for its director and deputy director positions.

In the reorganized department, Mortell will serve as chief of operations and oversee all of the department’s programs, such as communicable disease and environmental health, Melnick said. The department hopes to hire another program manager to take over Mortell’s current work, which includes overseeing the Community Transformation Grant and Partnerships for Healthy Neighborhoods program, he said.

Koch will work across the department’s programs to ensure quality improvement and spearhead outside partnership work. She’ll also help develop department policies, Melnick said.

In total, the changes (including hiring someone to replace Mortell) will save the county $262,380 per year.

The goal, Melnick said, is to make sure the department is efficient and meeting the needs of the community.

“We’re losing some really quality people, but I think we’ll be poised for the future,” he said.