Schoharie County to replace health director

Dec. 29—The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has decided to replace its health director.

"It was the consensus of the board," to not renew the contract with the county Director of Public Health Amy Gildemeister, Board Chairman and Conesville Town Supervisor William Federice said.

Federice said he couldn't comment on specific county personnel but said there were reasons for the county not to renew Gildemeister's contract.

Members of the Schoharie County Democratic Committee issued a media release blasting the decision not to extend Gildemeister's contract and urged supervisors to reconsider the matter during the Jan. 3, reorganizational meeting.

According to the release, nine supervisors "took advantage of the absence of two members and voted not to renew Dr. Gildemeister's contract, which had previously been unanimously renewed" by the county's board of health, which voted unanimously to reappoint her.

According to the release, Federice, Jefferson Town Supervisor Margaret Hait, Carlisle Town Supervisor John Leavitt, Wright Town Supervisor Alex Luniewski, Seward Town Supervisor Earlin Rosa, Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner, Gilboa Town Supervisor Alicia Terry, Summit Town Supervisor Harold Vroman and Broome Town Supervisor Stephen Weinhofer voted to not renew the contract.

Voting to renew the contract were Blenheim Town Supervisor Donald Airey, Cobleskill Town Supervisor William Hampel, Sharon Town Supervisor Sandra Manko, Fulton Town Supervisor Philip Skowfoe Jr. and Esperance Town Supervisor Earl VanWormer III. Middleburgh Town Supervisor Wes Laraway and Richmondville Town Supervisor Jeffrey Haslun were absent.

The Democratic committee said in its release that "Gildemeister was the target of anti-vaccination and anti-mask sentiments." The committee said in the release, that Gildemeister faced "direct blowback from those without any epidemiological or infectious disease expertise" during the COVID-19 pandemic, but "was steadfast in her efforts to protect the health of all county residents, regardless of their political leanings or other beliefs. The targeting of public health officials is a broader national issue of politicizing public health policy. It is a shame to see this happening on our Board of Supervisors."

Federice disagreed. "The appointment of any position, including the health director is merit based and nonpolitical," he said. "I find it disappointing the Democratic committee issued the press release solely on political reasons. I've been here almost 10 years and any renewal was based on how the person does the job and was never politically based."

Federice said the county is working with the state Department of Health to make the new appointment "as seamless as possible." He said the position has been posted and he expects the process to "take a little while." He said he wants to asssure residents the department will still function without a director. "We still have employees in the health department doing their work and they will continue to do their work," he said.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221.