The Spokane Regional Board of Health has chosen a permanent health officer.
The board, a body of elected officials and appointed community members, voted to offer interim health officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez the position permanently, during a board meeting Wednesday.
Velazquez has served as the interim health officer since last fall and was hired at the recommendation of the district’s administrator Amelia Clark.
Velazquez was offered the job on an interim basis the same day the board voted to fire his predecessor Dr. Bob Lutz.
Lutz repeatedly clashed with Clark and earned the ire of some board members for speaking out on issues like gun violence.
According to a presentation from Clark last week, candidates for the job went through four interviews, including a one on one with her, and a interview with a smaller committee of health board members.
According to a press release from the health district, it contracted with a nationwide recruiting firm and eight candidates applied. Two were interviewed.
Velazquez has had a long career in academia and in leading private health care organizations. He moved to Spokane in 2012 to become president and CEO of Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories (PAML).
“When I joined the Spokane Regional Health District as interim health officer, I didn’t realize how much I would learn, how much I would grow to love the people, and how their passion for public health would inspire me,” Velázquez said in a news release Wednesday. “I realized that I wanted to continue this journey and remain a part of the team here at the health district. I am very thankful to have the opportunity to do so.”
Velazquez's annual salary as health officer will be $247,000. According to SRHD, he has accepted the district's job offer.