Salem filling health commissioner role

Setty retiring after serving all eight years since dept. started up after being under county general district

Richard Setty

SALEM — Keep calm and carry on — that’s Richard Setty’s advice for the person who replaces him as city health commissioner for any hurdles that come along.

He faced plenty in his eight years at the helm of the Salem City Health Department, especially at the beginning, during spring 2009, when the department started up again after being under the Columbiana County General Health District for several years.

The Ohio Department of Health didn’t favor the idea, but the city had the right to have its own district, as it had before, and the city decided to exercise that option at a time when the state had been wanting to decrease the number of local health districts.

“I’ve been very proud of the strides we’ve been able to make collectively, the staff, the board and myself,” Setty said.

They managed to get the office up and running, weathered staff changes and survived problems that arose from time to time.

He said the three divisions, nursing, environmental and vital statistics, are running pretty well, they’re working hard towards the state-required accreditation and they’re providing services the citizens can use.

“I feel pretty good,” he said about leaving.

Setty, a native of Springfield who lives in Austintown, already retired once from public health after 33 years service, last working for the Mahoning County Board of Health.

Over the years, he had worked in all three area counties, including Columbiana and Trumbull, and even for the state. He decided to keep going on a part-time basis as Salem City Health Commissioner.

But with his 65th birthday looming in November, changes in the Public Employee Retirement System would have reduced his benefits if he continued working, so he decided to retire on a permanent basis.

He informed the board of his intentions a while ago and the board asked him to be involved in the search for his replacement.

“He’ll play a big role in finding someone he feels can do the job,” Salem Mayor John Berlin.

By virtue of his position as mayor, Berlin serves as chairman of the city health board. The city advertised the health commissioner opening on the city government website, and JobsOhio, attracting 15 applicants.

According to the job posting, the health commissioner “oversees the operations of the health department, supervises department personnel, functions as the chief advocate and resource for community health within the city and develops and implements public health programming.”

The position is part-time, with a background in public health preferable. Setty was qualified as a registered sanitarian and the mayor said they’re looking for someone with that qualification. The hours will be 20 to 29 hours per week with a current salary of $1,628 per month.

Two members of the board and Setty are reviewing the applications and will set up interviews. Setty said he’s expecting the new commissioner to be hired at the October meeting so that he’ll have some opportunity to get them acclimated.

“We’ve been very lucky having him as our health commissioner since 2009,” Berlin said.

Setty said he’s expecting to be gone by the end of the year. His wife, Joan, already retired as a consultant/registered dietician. They have three adult children and four grandchildren (two in Cleveland and two in Chapel Hill, North Carolina) and they’re looking to relocate to North Carolina.

He also said they’ll continue traveling, with trips to Europe and family in Italy and England.

He said he hopes the city stands firm in its desire to have its own health department, saying that to him, all public health is local.

“If it doesn’t happen on the local level, it may not happen,” he said.

The health department is the place to go for birth and death certificates and immunizations for children. The health department licenses and inspects food operations, licenses and inspects tattoo establishments, licenses public pool operations and handles a number of public nuisance complaints, such as dog bites, besides acting as an educator about public health concerns.

“My prayer for this department is that they’re able to carry on and the city fathers continue to support it,” Setty said.

The next health board meeting is 2 p.m. Oct. 25.