UPDATE: Mayer resigns as Allegany County health officer

·3 min read

Aug. 30—CUMBERLAND — Allegany County Health Officer Jenelle Mayer has resigned from her position effective Sept. 6.

"My family and I are relocating to North Carolina," she said via email Tuesday.

"When I leave, an acting health officer will be named to fulfill the job duties until a new Allegany County Health Officer is hired," Mayer said.

"I have been with the Allegany County Health Department for 10 years, six as health officer, and I am going to miss the kind, dedicated staff at ACHD," she said. "ACHD staff are a wonderful group of people and they work hard every day to provide vital public health programs and services for county residents."

Allegany County Commissioner Creade Brodie acknowledged Mayer's resignation.

"She's been a great health officer," he said in a phone interview Tuesday.

A committee comprised of local government and state health officials will be formed to choose potential candidates to replace Mayer, he said.

The Maryland Department of Health will consider the committee's suggested nominee and ultimately appoint the new county health officer, Brodie said.

"We have already started working on this process and will be advertising the position in the very near future," Allegany County Administrator Jason Bennett said via email Tuesday.

No doctors applied

According to Cumberland Times-News reports, Dr. Sue Raver retired as the county's health officer in January 2015 after more than a decade in the position.

Raver's deputy, Pat Panuska, became acting health officer the following May.

"By state law, the health officer must be a medical doctor," the newspaper reported in 2016 and added a local search for a candidate lasted roughly a year. "However, after no doctors applied to the position at the health department, officials were forced to lower the qualification requirements to allow candidates who hold a master's degree in public health administration."

Allegany County commissioners in February 2016 voted to recommend Mayer to MDH for the position of county health officer, and the state approved her appointment the following month.

According to Mayer's Linkedin profile, she served as ACHD's director of community health from August 2013 to March 2016, and community transformation grant coordinator from September 2012 to August 2013.

She holds a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Science-based precautions

In March 2020 as COVID-19 made its way into most of the state, Mayer addressed the county's lack of a single documented case of the disease.

"This doesn't mean that the virus isn't present in our community," she said at the time. "Community members should take precautions and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of disease."

Throughout the pandemic, Mayer regularly recommended science-based COVID-19 precautions to the the Allegany County Board of Education.

In late February of this year, Allegany County had the highest daily and seven-day moving average COVID-19 case rates in Maryland.

At that time, the Allegany County Board of Health voted at a meeting to end quarantine for school students with close exposure to COVID-19, despite Mayer's objection.

The health board consisted of the three Allegany County commissioners, and Mayer was the only member with a public health background.

Teresa McMinn is the Digital Editor for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or tmcminn@times-news.com.