Gay may shun ‘acting’ title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2003

JACKSON – Since 1996, Sue Gay has been asked to serve the Northampton County Health Department as its acting director. Her days may appear numbered with that title.

During Monday’s Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting, approval was given to pursue a recent provision included in a bill introduced by NC Senator Robert Holloman (D-Hertford) that could allow Gay to shun the title of &uot;acting&uot; director and name her to the position permanently.

Holloman’s provision – entitled Local Health Director Pilot Program – was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law in June by North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley. The measure must now be approved by Carmen Hooker Odom, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

The Pilot Program allows one request by a county for a registered nurse, meeting certain criteria, who is employed by a health department to become a health director without a master’s degree. The criteria that must be met for a Registered Nurse without a Bachelor’s Degree includes a minimum of 10 years of experience, at least seven years of which must be in an administrative or supervisory role. Of that seven years, at least five must be at the agency at which the candidate is an applicant for employment as local health director.

Gay fits all the mandated criteria. She graduated from a 33-month nursing program offered by Chowan College, in conjunction with Duke University from where she performed the required clinical services work. Gay has a total of 19 years with the Northampton Health Department, including the last seven years as its Acting Director. Prior to that, she served seven years as the department’s Nurse Director.

&uot;I never pushed or lobbied for the position of permanent health director,&uot; said Gay. &uot;This was something our County Board of Health and our County Commissioners worked very hard in making happen. I feel very honored and humbled that they would even consider this measure.&uot;

At the state level, Gay credited the work of Sen. Holloman. She said he lobbied for support of the Pilot Program and received assistance from some of the state’s most influential legislators, including Marc Basnight (D-Dare) who serves as President Pro Tem of the State Senate.

The proposal to remove &uot;acting&uot; from in front of Gay’s title received the full support of the Northampton County Board of Health.

&uot;We believe that our Acting Director, Sue Gay, is qualified based on the credentials approved in the special provision of the budget bill,&uot; said Board Chairman William R. Futrell Jr. in a letter to Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins.

Futrell’s letter continued, &uot;Our Board requests that the County Commissioners act on this request as soon as possible so that we may move forward with the process of naming Ms. Gay to the position permanently. We sincerely feel that this appointment is in the best interest of both the Health Department and Northampton County.&uot;

Jenkins echoed Futrell’s comments by saying, &uot;We saw this as an opportunity for Northampton County to capitalize in reason logic. By that I mean having Sue Gay as our permanent health director is in the best interest of Northampton County and our citizens who receive services from our Health Department. Speaking on behalf of our Board of Commissioners, we strongly support this action as we feel that Sue Gay is an effective leader and administrator.&uot;

&uot;Whatever the outcome of this process, I will continue to do the job I do day in and day out,&uot; concluded Gay. &uot;Being in a small rural county, we find ourselves operating with limited financial resources, but operating an effective Health Department isn’t about money. It’s about the people who work here. They are our most valuable resource because they provide a great service to the citizens of this county.&uot;

A native of Northampton County, Gay is the mother of three grown children – Marianna, Bob and Nick – and the grandmother of two – Lindsey and Noah Burnett. She resides in the Galatia community.