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New health officer nominated

August 23, 2000

New health officer nominated



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


For the second time in five weeks, the Washington County Commissioners have nominated a candidate to become Washington County's health officer.

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If William G. Christoffel wins state approval to replace outgoing Health Officer Robert Parker, it will mark the first time the county's top health officer has not been a doctor, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Wednesday.

Christoffel, of Mount Airy, Md., has about 30 years of experience as an administrator with federal public health programs, Snook said.

Washington County would not be breaking new ground. Other Maryland counties have already hired administrators as health officers to head county health departments and have doctors in another high-level position, Snook said.

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"I think he will be a good fit for the community," Snook said.

The position pays between $80,000 and $95,000 a year, Parker said.

The Washington County Commissioners voted unanimously on July 18 to nominate a Pennsylvania doctor for the position.

That nominee, Dr. Victor S.B. Jorden, an anesthesiologist from Media, Pa., later turned down the position for personal reasons, Parker said.

Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Georges Benjamin must give final approval to the Christoffel nomination, Parker said.

If approved, Christoffel will start work in early September and would shadow Parker for a few weeks to become acquainted with the Washington County Health Department's operation.

Parker said he plans to leave the position around late September.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having an administrator instead of a doctor as a health officer, according to Parker.

The advantage is that an administrator will have some administrative skills that many doctors are lacking, he said.

The disadvantage is that an administrator may not have some medical knowledge that a doctor would, he said. That can be overcome, however, by ensuring that a doctor is on staff, he said.

Christoffel said he and his wife recently moved from Ellicott City, Md., into a home in Mt. Airy. They may move to Washington County if he gets the position, he said.

Christoffel has held federal jobs in the Rockville, Md., and Bethesda areas from 1969 to about 1991, according to his resume.

His past accomplishments include helping President Richard Nixon deliver a health message to the country and assisting in the establishment of the National Health Service Corps, he said.

He worked in Hawaii for the federal government from 1991 to about 1999, when he moved back to Maryland, he said. He has been doing consulting work since then, he said.

Christoffel said he likes the idea of working in Washington County because the region is more rural and there are changing seasons, he said.

Parker said he was impressed with Christoffel's skills and past work.

"He brings a wealth of experience in the health system," he said.

Christoffel has a bachelor of science degree in economics from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and a Ph.D. in economics from Syracuse University.

A search committee selected him as a front-runner for the health officer position. The panel has been searching for Parker's replacement since February.

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