July 1, 2022

Regional Health District Chief Appointed Interim Health Director in Essex

ESSEX— First Selectman Phil Miller has appointed Mary Jane Engle, the registered sanitarian who serves as executive director of the three-town Connecticut River Valley Area Health District, as interim health director for the town.

Miller said Engle would begin her local duties Friday, working three to five hours a week in Essex. She replaces Dr. William McCann, a local physician who has served as the part-time health director for the past two years. Miller said he anticipates Engle would serve as interim health director for “one to three months” while the board of selectmen considers whether to continue with a part-time health director, or possibly joining the regional health district.
“She is the best interim solution,” Miller said, adding “this is not an attempt to backdoor in to the regional health district.”

But Selectman Joel Marzi, the minority Republican who was Miller’s opponent in last year’s town election, said Miller should have discussed the matter with the full three-member board before making the interim appointment. He said Miller could have added the issue to the agenda of the last board of selectmen meeting held on Oct. 6.¬†

“Why this matter was not brought to the board of selectmen in a public meeting I can only speculate,” Marzi said, adding “I am not comfortable with the way this decision was made.”

The Connecticut  River Valley Area Health District was formed by the towns of Clinton, Deep River, and Old Saybrook in July 2006. The district offices are in Old Saybrook. The Essex Board of Selectmen, led by Miller, decided not to join the district at its formation after receiving a mixed response on the option from residents at a public hearing held in June 2006.

After Marzi joined the board, another informational hearing was held on the regional health district option last February. The response from about 80 residents was again mixed, though there was more support for the idea than was expressed at the 2006 hearing.

Miller said the board of selectmen would discuss “health department direction” at the Oct. 20 meeting. He said another public hearing would be held on the regional health district option later this year.