Clatsop County Public Health Director accepts job with Grays Harbor County

Grays Harbor Public Health and Social Services will have a new director March 15.

Michael McNickle, currently the director of Clatsop County, Oregon, Public Health, was selected as the top candidate among about a dozen applicants at a special county commission meeting Feb. 11 and accepted the county’s offer Tuesday, said Commissioner Vickie Raines.

McNickle was hired as Clatsop County’s public health director in September 2014. Prior to that he was the director of Yamhill County Oregon Public Health for nearly four years. He holds a Doctorate in public health from Walden University.

While leading the COVID-19 response effort in Clatsop County, McNickle himself tested positive for the virus in June. In a June 25 interview with the Astorian newspaper, he said, “It’s a teachable moment because it shows that anybody can get COVID.”

As of Feb. 5, Clatsop County, with a population of just over 40,000, had 761 total COVID-19 cases and five deaths.

County health officer Dr. John Bausher spoke highly of McNickle at the Feb. 11 meeting, saying, “I have no reservations about his candidacy.”

Bausher said McNickle “did not back away from any topic” during their conversation, adding, “He certainly has the expertise in the field of public health as far as I’m concerned.”

Raines, Commissioner Kevin Pine and Commissioner Jill Warne all had conversations with McNickle prior to the Feb. 11 meeting.

“I found him very good with his ability to communicate with me on various levels,” said Raines. “We even talked about issues … in both our counties, like our unfortunate position of being counties that are underserved counties that have high risk personal behaviors, which makes us susceptible” to public health issues.

Pine said McNickle was “straightforward in his responses” to Pine’s questions. Warne said she “felt comfortable with him, and I think he’ll be a good fit and an asset to our county.”

After the commissioners approved the hire, an offer was made to McNickle with a salary of about $10,000 a month, a few hundred dollars more than he makes in Clatsop County, with potential for an increase after six months.

McNickle will take over for previous director Karolyn Holden, who resigned her position at the end of December to take a position outside the county. Holden had been director since July 2016 and had worked in Grays Harbor County Public Health for more than 30 years at the time of her resignation.