Every day dealing with COVID-19 is more political than the last. Our Health Department employees have been harassed, threatened, and it appears maybe even shot at, based on reports I received last week.
The politics of the pandemic have spilled into every crevice of our lives and, unfortunately, onto the County Commission. The politicization of the pandemic has been a dangerous trend here and around the country, as we continue to battle COVID-19 and the latest variants.
However, this week I bring good news. This week, the County Commission approved my nomination of Lt. Col. (Dr.) Michelle Taylor to be the permanent director of the Shelby County Health Department.
As I mentioned in my nomination letter to Commissioners, I believe Col. Taylor is well-qualified for this job and for this moment.
She advised and helped lead health care policy, including the COVID response, for the Air National Guard, an organization with 107,000 airmen, and 7,500 health professionals. The organization she helped lead is significantly larger, in every way, and more complex, in every way, than the Shelby County Health Department.
Lt. Col. Taylor is a person who has been through officer training school and earned Meritorious Service Medal from the United States military. In addition, she is a pediatrician with deep experience in public health and degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She is from a good family, a family that believes in service. She is a cancer survivor who personally and viscerally understands the importance of access to health care. She is a specialist in minority health policy, seeking a position in a community teeming with diversity.
She is rooted in Memphis, a White Station High grad, who at the beginning of her career taught biology at Fairley High. She understands what makes our community special and what challenges we have to reach our fullest potential.
She is a mother of two children, Malik who is 15 and Ella who is 7. She has agreed to return here, to Memphis and Shelby County because of family, because she is devoted to this community, because she is devoted to service.
The Commissioners, all 13 of them, were able to put aside politics and vote to approve her nomination. All 13 of them came together to show our community the path forward. We can’t defeat this pandemic with constant bickering and politics at every turn. We can only make progress together.
Lt. Col. Taylor’s arrival is one of the ways we signal to our community that we want the return of our best and brightest. It is also one of the ways we signal to our community that we value and honor military service and our veterans.
Now, after the Commission’s unanimous bipartisan approval, Lt. Col. Taylor starts on August. 2.
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