Health department has its first female African American leader

Health department has its first female African American leader

Chantell Harmon Reed, who has had similar roles in Oregon and Louisiana, is the new director of public health at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Reed took over March 18 after her appointment was confirmed by the Pierce County Council and Tacoma City Council, completing a hiring process that put an African American woman at the top of the department for the first time in its 51-year history.

“I’m thrilled to be stepping into this role,” said Reed. “This community and department are already doing great things. We’ll bring renewed energy to best serve the public health needs of the people of Pierce County.”

Reed was most recently the deputy director of public health for the Multnomah County Health Department in Oregon. Before that, she was deputy director for the New Orleans Health Department. Among other things, Reed helped close healthcare disparity gaps through improved maternal and infant mortality rates and the creation of a doula workforce development program.

Reed, one of three finalists for the Tacoma-Pierce job, was interviewed and appointed by County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Mayor Victoria Woodards.The county and city governments oversee the Health Department.

Reed’s “community-led approaches and unwavering commitment to equity solidified her as the standout candidate. This heralds a new era of progress for our community’s health,” said Catherine Ushka, chairwoman of the Health Board, which was involved in recruitment of candidates.

Thirty-three people applied for the position. Of those, a little more than half were either from out of state, male, or non-white.