Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With the acting director set to leave his job at the end of February, Missoula County commissioners on Thursday named an interim director to oversee the Health Department while the search for a permanent replacement begins.

Commissioners appointed Shannon Therriault to the post on an interim basis, following this week's recommendation from the Board of Health. The board makes the recommendation to the county under guidelines adopted by the Legislature several years ago.

“She's been with the Health Department for a number of years and is the director of the environmental health section,” said county CAO Chris Lounsbury. “She's well versed in the operations of the Health Department and will serve as the point of contact while their management team continues to function and lead the organization.”

Therriault also serves as a member of Climate Ready Missoula.

Missoula Public Health in January announced the departure of current director Damian Chase-Begay, who was hired to replace former director Ellen Leehy three years ago. His last day on the job is slated for Feb. 29.

Lounsbury said recruitment for a new director should start next week.

“The hope is to have a director in by late spring,” he said. “Depending on where the candidate might be coming from, that will also impact the date they'll be here.”

In the interim, Therriault will oversee the department.

“I'm excited about the idea of helping the department bridge the gap between two directors,” she said on Thursday. “I have a lot of faith in the committee, board and commission to find the right person to lead us. I feel like this is a good opportunity to learn more about the parts of the Health Department I know less about.”