The story has been updated with a statement from Ottawa County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky.

GRAND HAVEN, MI – The health department director in Michigan’s fastest-growing county has announced plans to retire ahead of a county board takeover by candidates who campaigned on frustrations over the school mask mandate.

Ottawa County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky, a 31-year veteran of the department, will take early retirement on March 31, according to a retirement agreement tentatively granted Tuesday, Aug. 16. by the county commissioners of Ottawa.

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Neither the proposed agreement nor the discussion by commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting indicated why Stefanovsky plans to step down. Furthermore, no source indicates when she submitted her retirement plans.

Stefanovsky, who has overseen the health department since 2006, did not say why she plans to step down in a statement to MLive/The Grand Rapids Press on Wednesday evening, Aug. 17. A health department spokesman said Stefanovsky was not available for further comment at this time.

“I planned to work until next April and am announcing my retirement now to allow time to recruit and hire a new health officer and to ensure a smooth transition and continuity of public health operations,” Stefanovsky said in a statement.

Ottawa County administration and Ottawa County Board Chair Matt Fenske could not be reached.

The tentative retirement deal comes just two weeks after a slate of political newcomers frustrated by the county health department’s mandate to mask school children won big in the Aug. 2 Republican primary for the Board of Ottawa County Commissioners.

That group of candidates, members of Ottawa Impact, swept eight of the nine primaries in which they ran, ousting seven Republican incumbents from the board.

Barring two challenges from weak Democrats in the November general election, the eight Ottawa Impact Republicans who won will hold a majority of the county board’s 11 seats after they are sworn in in January.

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Ottawa Impact’s platform includes protections for parental rights, personal liberties and religious liberties, with language largely challenging past pandemic orders that closed schools, churches and businesses and mandated masks for children and adults in some public spaces. interior.

Two Ottawa Impact candidates previously told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press that they decided to run after they felt many of the Republican incumbents on the county board ignored pleas from parents and community members to overturn the health department’s mask mandate of the district.

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In August 2021, Stefanovsky and Kent County Health Department Director Adam London issued a joint public health order mandating masking for students and staff in preschool through sixth grade buildings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The action drew the ire of some residents at public meetings that followed. Mask orders were lifted in January after the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for young children.

The preliminary retirement agreement stipulates that Stefanovsky will continue to perform her duties as health officer until a successor is formally appointed and approved, but that she will continue no later than March 31. The deal will go before the full board of commissioners for final approval on Tuesday, August 23.

If a new health department director is named before March 31, Stefanovsky will stay on as an internal administrative officer at the health department to help with the leadership transition.

If the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners decides to fire Stefanovsky before March 31, the county will pay her three months of her salary and benefits.

The preliminary retirement agreement did not indicate Stefanovsky’s salary.

Ottawa County Administrator John Shay wrote in a memo to commissioners that he plans to begin the hiring process for Stefanovsky’s replacement as soon as possible.

“Because it is a lengthy process to hire a new health officer, which is subject to approval by both the Board of Commissioners and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the county plans to begin the hiring process immediately,” Shay wrote.

According to Grand Rapids Press archives, Stefanovsky has been with the Ottawa County Health Department since 1991. In 2006, she was named department director and county health officer.

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