Framingham City Council To Vote on New Framingham Health Director Tuesday

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FRAMINGHAM – The 11-member Framingham City Council will vote on Tuesday, June 15, on Mayor Yvonne Spicer’s choice of Dr, Monifa Charles of North Carolina to be the City of Framingham’s new health director.

As the selection comes in the Mayor’s final year of a four-year term, it requires a 2/3rds vote of the City Council or 8 votes in the affirmative.

The 5-member City Council appointments subcommittee interview Charles last night, June 8.

Charles has worked in public health for the last 18 years, most recently working for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service Office in Raleigh, where she identified innovative models of care and collaboration in underserved areas.

Mayor Spicer told the subcommittee Charles, if approved would start on June 21.

If approved for a 3-year term, he starting salary would be $123,000.

Charles is an expert in rural health and health research.

Prior to her role in North Carolina, she served as the director of Rural Health Initiatives in Jacksonville, FL. In addition to tending to the program’s administration, Charles led behavioral health services and countywide and statewide initiatives for healthy families. She also worked as the community liaison for the U.S. Department of Education and Human Services for 12 years, where she developed, designed, and presented workshops and training on community health, child abuse and prevention, infectious diseases, disaster preparedness, etc. Before working in municipal government, she was a high school science teacher.

Mayor Spicer used a selection committee to help her narrow the less than dozen applicants for the position, vacated when Sam Wong left the City of Framingham in December 2020. Wong has since taken a position with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The selection committee included Mayor Spicer; Human Resources Department Director Dolores Hamilton; Chief Diversity, Equity; and Inclusion Officer Dr. Maritsa Barros and; Board of Health chair Gillian Carcia, Board of Health member Dr. David Moore and Board of Health member Laura Houseman.

SOURCE filed an Open Meeting Law violation with the City of Framingham on May 24, as all three members of the Board of Health served on the selection committee, and the Board of Health never posted any meetings, not even executive session meetings. A quorum of a Board of Commission should not meet without posting notification 48 hours in advance, even if the meeting will be closed to the public. The Spicer administration nor the Board of Health has yet to respond to the notification. The City has 14 days to do so, under the law.

Mayor Spicer told the appointments subcommittee the selection committee felt Charles would “navigate some of the challenges of our pandemic” and that she was “well versed in dealing with underserved communities.”

Mayor Spicer said she was impressed by the “powerful presentation” Charles gave the selection committee and that she gave the Mayor the “sense Framingham would be in good hands under her leadership.”

Charles did not give a presentation to the City Council subcommittee last night. The meeting and interview last only about 30 minutes.

Mayor Spicer said she found Charles to be “quite personable” and that “resonated” with her.

Charles has a Doctorate of Health Science from Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida a Master of Science in Pharmacy from the University of Florida in Gainesville, and a Master of Public Administration, and a Bachelor of Science in Health Service Administration from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

The City received 11 applications for the job, and the selection committee identified two finalists.

During last night’s meeting, At-Large Councilor Janet Leombruno asked Charles is she spoke a second language, like Spanish or Portuguese, and her experience in dealing with a large immigrant population.

Charles said she did not speak a second lanaguage.

Charles said she was “very passionate about serving the underserved areas” of the City of Framingham.

She said in her current and former roles she has worked clinics who serve undocumented patients and federally-qualified health centers.

Charles said it is important to make “it convenient to provide services they need.”

Charles said she sits on national boards.

She told the subcommittee she likes to “utilize ressearch” and “use focus groups.”

Board of Health chair Carcia told the Councilors Charles will roll-up her sleeves and get right in.

Carcia said Charles would be a “great asset” to a department that is “well staffed” and “well run.”

The Board of Health Chair, appointed by Mayor Spicer, wrote a letter to the full 11-member City Council encouraging them to approve Charles.

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“Dr. Charles has experience in managing grants and budgeting, which are important skills for the director position. Health inequities are a major public health issue in Framingham; Dr. Charles’ significant work on health inequities will benefit Framingham, as the inequities faced in rural North Carolina and Florida are, at their core, the same inequities faced in Framingham. I believe these skills are directly transferrable to Framingham and would be great assets to our City,” wrote Carcia. “Dr. Charles’ enthusiasm and intelligence shine through when she discusses public health. She is passionate about her work and wants to “roll up her sleeves” and be on the ground working to better the health of Framingham’s residents. I believe that her demeanor and
experience will serve her well in this environment and make her a good fit for the director position.”

Charles did struggle to answer questions by the subcommittee on dealing with environmental issues. The City of Framingham has several toxic sites and environmental justice issues. She handled questions on restaurant inspections well.

Assistant Framingham Health Director Alex DePalo has been serving as interim Health Director since January 2020.

Under the charter, she can only serve as interim for a maximum of 180 days.

DePalo did not apply for the Health Director position.

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