Seal of Putnam County Ohio - Putnam Sentinel

PUTNAM COUNTY — On Monday, for the fourth time in as many months, members of the Putnam County District Advisory Council met to discuss business related to the Putnam County Board of Health. With 19 of 37 members in attendance — just enough for a quorum, the votes necessary to take official action — the DAC filled the two remaining open seats on the health board: an at-large position, as well as the seat reserved for a physician, as required by Ohio Revised Code.

For the physician’s seat, the DAC’s Nominating Committee presented Dr. J. Stephen Sandy, the only applicant for the position. Before voting, Health Commissioner Kim Rieman turned the floor over to Pam Sager, executive director of Putnam County HomeCare and Hospice, who offered a brief synopsis of Dr. Sandy’s qualifications.

“He practiced in Columbus Grove for 25 to 30 years,” Mrs. Sager said. “He was born in Columbus Grove. Currently, he works at Lima Memorial Hospital taking care of hospice patients. He is very interested in helping the community and helping both agencies.”

Proactively addressing what some could perceive as a potential conflict, Mrs. Sager informed the DAC that Dr. Sandy’s work with hospice patients — a program operated by PCHH at Lima Memorial — has no direct ties to her agency.

“He is not paid by us. We give him no money. He has no interest in us, in case anybody wonders,” Mrs. Sager said.

DAC members were also informed that, though Dr. Sandy lives in Allen County, the Ohio Department of Health cleared him to serve on the Putnam County Health Board.

Without further discussion, the DAC unanimously approved Dr. Sandy’s appointment to fulfill the remainder of Dr. Mandy Klass’s term — who resigned her seat in March — set to expire in March of 2020.

For the at-large seat, a term set to expire on March 20, 2022, the nominating committee proposed an individual employed by the county.

“There were four candidates that applied. We are recommending Joe Burkhart, who is the IT Director for the county,” nominating committee member and Kalida Mayor Alan Gerdeman said. “He had very strong references; former Commissioner John Love, current Prosecuting Attorney Gary Lammers, and there were others who recommended Joe.”

Before moving to the vote, Perry Township Trustee Peter Clementz nominated one of the remaining three candidates, Meredith Michel, to the position, creating a contested seat. Seventeen voted in favor of Mr. Burkhart, with DAC Chair Robert Heidenescher abstaining.

Before closing the meeting, Commissioner Rieman raised a concern on behalf of the nominating committee regarding the process of appointing health board members. To date, the committee has relied almost exclusively on written correspondence from candidates for the board.

“The nominating committee, when we were talking, brought up how we could potentially interview candidates from here on out,” Commissioner Rieman said. “When we looked at our candidates for the at-large position, we had four really, really good, strong candidates. So they thought it might be better to do some interviewing of maybe the top two, or three, or four who come in to us for consideration.”

“We’re kind of sticking our necks out a bit,” Mayor Gerdeman said. “Not this time, but maybe in the future. We don’t have any idea who these candidates are. We felt, the four of us felt, it would be best, if there’s a lot of candidates who apply, Kim and her staff would weed it down to maybe three that we would bring in to interview with the nominating committee. So we get face-to-face interviews, feel them out a little better, and get to know them to make sure we’re not missing anything.”

DAC members then voted to have Commissioner Rieman change the language of the council’s by-laws, creating an opportunity for the interviewing process.

The next regular meeting of the Putnam County District Advisory Council is scheduled for March of 2020.

The Putnam County Board of Health will hold its next regular meeting on Thursday, May 16, at 6 p.m. at the Health Department.