County Public Health Director to Retire, Deputy Health Director Promoted
Mecklenburg County, NC – After nearly four years as Mecklenburg County’s Public Health Director — including almost a year and half leading the County through its response to the pandemic — Gibbie Harris will retire at the end of this year.
County Manager Dena Diorio made the announcement Wednesday night during the Board of County Commissioners’ regular meeting on July 7. Diorio also announced that current Deputy Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington will become the new Public Health Director when Harris retires.
Harris served as the County’s interim public health director from June 2017 – October 2017, when she was named as the permanent director for the department. Her 30-year public health career has also included positions as health director for Wake and Buncombe counties. While in Buncombe County in 2011, she was named North Carolina’s Health Director of the Year.
“Gibbie is a true public health professional who has worked to bring competency, leadership, respect and trust to Public Health in Mecklenburg County,” said Mecklenburg County Manager Dena R. Diorio. “Thanks to her leadership, we have truly been able to help improve the quality of life for our residents. I wish her and her family the best of luck.”
Harris has had a significant impact during her time in Mecklenburg County, leading efforts to identify health priorities, working to prevent and control communicable diseases, improve health outcomes and assure equity among all residents.
Under her leadership, Mecklenburg County Public Health has achieved many accomplishments including:
- Reorganization and increased leadership in the department
- Implementation of Public Health transformation efforts
- Addressed Hepatitis A Outbreak
- Implemented PrEP Initiative to prevent the spread of HIV
- Developed and implementing Community HIV Prevention Plan
- Perfect score on Public Health Re-Accreditation Review
- Created Office of Violence Prevention
- Provide leadership for the County response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
“It has been an honor to serve as the County’s health director over the past five years,” said Harris. “I have had the distinct pleasure of working alongside many dedicated and hard-working public health staff, volunteers, and partners during my time here. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve the Mecklenburg community with them and, more importantly, the outstanding jobs and important work they have done and continue to do every day.”
Mecklenburg County Deputy Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington will take on the Public Health Director role at the start of 2022. Over the past 16 months, Washington has served as second-in-command for the department, providing oversight and direction to internal operations in addition to supporting all aspects of COVID-19 response with direct oversight of communications and outreach, epidemiology, testing and various aspects of the vaccine distribution. He also serves as a technical expert regarding public health practice, epidemiology, and the control of diseases and adverse health conditions internally and represents the department in work with external health stakeholders, local, state and federal government officials and the media.
“I’m honored to have been chosen for this role,” said Washington. “It has been a privilege to serve with an incredible team of public health professionals in our department over the past year. We strive every day to protect and improve the health of our community and make good health possible for everyone. I’m looking forward to continuing to work together in serving the residents of Mecklenburg County.”
Prior to starting work with the County in 2020, Washington most recently worked as Chief Epidemiologist and Deputy Commissioner with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health from 2017-2020. Before that, he worked for the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Public Health has over 850 full time employees and multiple divisions, including Population Health, Preventative Health, Clinical Services, Case Management and Health Partnerships as well as Administrative Services.