Anchorage's chief health officer has no health background? - Must Read AlaskaQ
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Saturday, February 27, 2021
HomePoliticsAnchorage’s chief health officer has no health background?

Anchorage’s chief health officer has no health background?

bronsonformayor

In July, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz hired Heather Harris as the new director of the Anchorage Health Department.

Then-Director Natasha Pineda had wanted to leave for months, and finally resigned for personal reasons.

Harris slipped into the spot at the end of August without a question from the media about her qualifications and has been advising the mayor (now interim Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson, after Berkowitz’ hasty and embarrassing departure in October), and the Anchorage School District on matters relating to business openings and closures, schools, masks, distancing, testing, and more.

Harris, originally from Homer, has no background in health, although she has a management background and an Executive Masters in Public Administration degree.

“Heather brings new energy to AHD at a critical time,” said Mayor Berkowitz at the time. “I have full confidence in her natural leadership and strong public health background to guide the Department through this pandemic, while at the same time ensuring that it fulfills its many responsibilities.  I look forward to working with her.”

In fact, she also has no public health management background. Her LinkedIn resume shows that she was the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters and a consultant at the Foraker Group, a group funded and controlled by the Rasmuson Foundation.

Before that, she was the executive director of Alaska Youth Advocates and the Alaska Youth and Parent Foundation. She worked at Standing Together Against Rape and has a bachelor’s degree in human services from University of Alaska Anchorage.

Harris has management skills, in her resume, at least. But the job of health director during the second worst pandemic in American history would suggest that actual training in health or public health would be a requirement for the job. Her predecessor, Pineda, has a Masters in Public Health. She is now working at Providence.

In fact, the job description makes it clear that the director “assures that the delivery of public health services are evidence-based and/or best practices, and build the scientific basis of public health.”

The description goes on to say that the director “collaborates in the development of evidence-based public health practices and programs in collaboration with universities, other health agencies, businesses, trade associations, other staff and the public. Oversees in development, implementation and evaluation of programs and activities for individuals, families and population groups that promote health and prevent disease. Responsible for communicable disease follow-up: Assures that assigned staff makes appropriate recommendations to clients and other professionals regarding control of specific diseases and follows up on health hazard complaints as described in the MOA code and state statues.”

Read the entire job description at this link:

There are several other parts of the job description that indicate the importance of a health management background, such as Item E, where it indicates she is the “on call public health staff for after hours..”

“Heather brings new energy to AHD at a critical time,” said Mayor Berkowitz last July. “I have full confidence in her natural leadership and strong public health background to guide the Department through this pandemic, while at the same time ensuring that it fulfills its many responsibilities.  I look forward to working with her.”

The department is responsible for many services for Anchorage, which has 38 percent of the state’s population within its borders. It has divisions for affordable housing, aging and disability, air quality, animal care and control, public health, domestic violence, emergency utility assistance, emergency preparedness, and the homeless public safety patrol, among others.

Many business leaders in Anchorage have bristled at the numerous closures of businesses over the past year, and parents have complained to the school district about the ill-effects of school closures on families, children, and their school work.

Anchorage is currently under Emergency Order 18, which limits indoor gatherings, mandates mask wearing, and limits bar capacity to 50 percent.

Anchorage Emergency Order 18

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I’m sure she’s the most qualified person to implement the progressive agenda upon the city.

    • Actually, she also had to be approved by the Assembly. I researched her background and the resume that she submitted. Her best qualifications were overseeing a used clothing drive, and organizing a pull tab gambling event. Just what we need, running the local public health department. The job pays $130,000 a year, by the way.
      I showed up by telephone at her rubber stamp Assembly confirmation hearing, to let the Assembly members know that she was totally unqualified for that position. It really needed (and still needs) someone who was an MD with a Masters or PhD in Public Health.
      I managed to convince just one Assembly member (not sure who, but I think it was Crystal Kennedy) to vote against her confirmation.
      I thought then, and now, that then Mayor Ballsowitz was just paying off a favor to some Union buddy.
      This idiot (Heather) understands nothing about public health. So she will just mindlessly parrot whatever tripe she is handed by Anne Zink (head of AK Public Health Dept) or some other handler.
      We are not getting the competency we are paying for, here. Glad that Suzanne figured that out.

      • It’s not about competency nor the best results for the citizens at large; it’s all about the progressives imposing their agenda upon the unwilling public. And you are 100% correct about thanking Suzanne for exposing her (like Berky’s butt). People need to demand better of ‘public’ officials. Thank you, Suzanne.

  • This should tell everyone that covid-19 is nothing but a business opportunity while they turn your body into a Microsoft Bill Gates operating system

  • Another disastrous choice by the Mayor’s administration of creepers, stalkers and simple incompetents. Would we be surprised to find the Mayor-appointed head of Anchorage Health Department has no public health background at all? Oh, but she knows how to manage numbers. I would not have guessed that I have more public health education than the appointed one. Can we sanction anybody for this? Will we? Probably not. But thanks to Suzanne Downing, the information is now out there.

    • She has the same medical and public health training Bill Gates has.

  • Gotta wonder if she has stability issues and pics of Berkie’s unattired backside as well…

    • Oh my. Are you implying that the mayor’s hiring scepter could be wielded as an incentive program? What a multi-talented individual he must’ve been. I wonder if his wife ran him over yet?

    • My first thought also Aunt Sally

  • Public health is way too important to leave up to those with public health education and work experience.

  • Lemme see if I have this straight: Anchorage has a mayor who hasn’t been elected and has a health officer who has no background in health, and they are dictating the economy of Anchorage. We are lost if we don’t get this election right this time.

  • Well THIS is encouraging news for people like me.
    Real conservatives: you dont have to hire/promote someone because they have senority and education and experience. You can start hiring entry level adults demonstrating promise and integrity who have more of it than who went to college. You can train them and educate them on the job from the ground up, and it’s s a good way to develop your patience as an employer, and it would be good developing a new Alaskan workforce training individuals not corrupted by Marxist/Communist Universities .

    I dont see what Fmr. Mayor Berkowitz done as a bad thing. I See Opportunity in starting a new direction. Alaska needs new thinkers away from all the Berkowitzs, Merricks , Zinks, Bishops, Dunbars, Constants, including their friends holding positions, when we desperately need new ideas and these people currently filling them have no ideas.

    • I am confused.
      First having knowledge and expertise isn’t a party issue.
      Second we are not talking about some apprentice job, were she follows the nurses/food inspectors around to get a hands-on training opportunity.
      She is the boss, making the final decisions and recommendations. It would be nice, if she at least knew what she was talking about. Compare this to getting a nutrition plan from a guy teaching French literature or asking a social worker to take out your appendix. There are fields were knowledge and experience actually matters, healthcare, food safety and epidemiology being among them.
      When you can not judge the suggestions your staff makes, because you lack the necessary background knowledge, manipulation is almost a given.

  • This never was about a virus, this was always about controlling the narrative & direction of the economy. Small business was always the target as the central bankers move closer to their “great reset” agenda. The Gates foundation did a mock pandemic drill months before the Wuhan flu made it to North America. Americans need to stop following the paid talking heads and think for themselves. Ask yourself. “Whatever happened to the annual flu season? ” Where are all of those fatalities listed ?

  • Now that we know, We the People must demand a resignation. The MOA Acting Mayor and most of the Assembly should be investigated by OIG and US Treasury. A lie spoken a thousand times is still a lie. Fraud is fraud. Everyone needs to vote and we need legitimate observers.

  • There was an extra ticket available for the Gravy Train. ALL ABOARD!

  • We will never know the full reason Berkowitz left. There is more to that story.

  • You dumb dumbs in Anchorage complied with this BS without barely a peep heard. You Sheeple deserve what you got.

  • Too late, Moose. The UNQUALIFIDS already run the joint.

  • Empirical evidence indicates there isn’t anyone in the administration or assembly that has a clue as to what they are supposed to be doing.

  • Wow. She actually thought she was qualified for this job?? What a narcissist.

  • Maybe the criteria was that she be a woman and the people with health experience were men.

  • Wow, what a scoop, MRAK. The folks from Pulitzer should be calling soon.

    This website takes such pleasure in trashing the reputations of capable and well-intentioned people who spend their lives trying to help others. The recent Zink story is another fine example.

    I pity the authors of such articles, as their lives are apparently filled primarily with resentment, jealousy, and bitterness towards others.

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Matthew 7:12. Give it a try!

    • Many of us are well intentioned and want to help others, but are marginally capable. The first coming to mind is Neville Chamberlain, a politician of true domestic accomplishments who led his nation to war with his best of intentions.
      Make a choice: a really nice surgeon, super nice guy, with no track record just starting out, or a gruff nasty old bear with the bedside manner of a porcupine, who has done over 2000 of the procedures, showing consistent outstanding results. Which do you choose? I chose the latter (my daughter described him as the grown up nerdy kid that everybody picked on in grade school) and have the best outcome of any I know undergoing the surgery.
      The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but when it comes to public expenditures we need to demand the best qualified to achieve the best outcome for limited resources.
      No one can argue with you: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Matthew 7:12, but do you let your neighbor (unless he is a surgeon) remove your appendix or treat your cancer?

    • Mathew 7:12 is exactly why I’m not a leftist; there’s nothing in me that wants to take someone else’s property, tell them what they can say, what they can think, and then hold the gun of government to their head to make sure they comply. That’s just not my thing…but as long as I’ve been alive, that’s what my friends on the left seem to want to do; impose their will on their neighbor…Limit what they can say…tell them what they can think.. Confiscate their property… etc etc.. all using government as a cudgel to smash those who defy their will. Now they have the perfect marriage with corporate Globalists and the CCP so they have a model they can use (China) and limitless funds (big corporate) they can cancel and destroy whoever they can’t imprison. It’s quite a neat trick. Hiring unqualified party apparatchiks to fill technical positions is just a symptom of the larger illness, but it is so stereotypical as to be funny. For most of us Orwell’s vision was a warning, but to these folks it’s an instruction manual.

      • “For most of us Orwell’s vision was a warning, but to these folks it’s an instruction manual.”
        “I can’t prove it for a fact, but I just know it to be true.” Credit to what’s his name talk show host.

  • Harris’ hiring perfectly demonstrates how government works today………an unqualified person slurps up vast amounts of your hard earned tax dollars in salary and benefits, while ruling over you by making unreasonable rules and edicts in matters they really know nothing about, possibly leading you into bankruptcy.
    But they will eventually sail off into retirement with a fat pension, and not a single thought or care about the destruction they left in their wake….

    • Tim, great summation of the current situation. Given the support leftist enjoy from public employee unions, some have employed the word PLUNDER as an apt description. This is not an indictment of individual Police or Firemen who happen to be members of said unions, it is however an indictment of the system created to gain and hold political power. Leftist politicians and public employee union leaders are merely parasites, feeding off the host species.

  • Florida has managed to keep their businesses snd schools open during this entire Pandemic!’San Antonio, Texas has been able to keep schools open, off and on, through this entire epidemic! Why are Anchorage citizens allowing the shutdown of your city!

    • Those are faraway places. How about Mat Su?

  • Another example of how in the eyes of the MSM and other leftists, progressives, marxists, and the Communists USA Party(endorsed obama, hillary, & biden), those
    belonging to the democrat party can do no wrong…………

  • More proof that Anchorage is ruled by an incompetent & thoroughly corrupt cabal of lunatics!

  • If the Marxist boneheads on the Anchorage Assembly have no qualifications to run a city, why would anyone expect that an appointed chief health officer would need qualifications for that position? Even on a national level, the Biden administration is full of incompetent boobs. Stupid is the new smart.

  • Does the job description really say……………” follows up on health hazard complaints as described in the MOA code and state STATUES.”

  • Not what you know, but who you know. The Municipality employment gravy train continues for the unqualified graduates with a Masters degree in unrelated fields. I feel so much “safer” health wise in the Municipality knowing Heather Harris is at the Director of the Anchorage Health Department. NOT!

  • The CCP virus is real, but the people locking down and mask shaming have not one compassionate bone in their body. These are totalitarian tactics designed to pummel a population into total submission. When you seek to do that, you aren’t looking at experts in whatever crisis is being manipulated; you look for experts in manipulation.

  • She doesn’t need qualifications and it was never a concern. Her job is to promote leftist “groupthink” and do as she is dictated to by the higher authority. Next she’ll be saying firearms are a health concern and will promote the anti-gun agenda. All very predictable.

  • That’s just peachy…”Heather brings new energy to the department” but can apparently not tell botulism from salmonella. I seriously suspect that she was hired precisely for her lack of knowledge. She then gets her info from the “right channels” without any pesky facts of knowledge in the way, providing the mayor with the data he/she wants.

  • Well, Dunleavy hired an industrial training business owner and political financial backer who has nothing resembling health and social services experience as the commissioner for DHSS the largest state entity so obviously no relevant experience needed for these positions in his administration.

    Your article title is misleading and for all practical purposes wrong, as you go on to list numerous positions and experience she has with managing and coordinating in the realm of social services, public administration and that she has a masters in Public Health.

    Your insistence that she doesn’t have a “health background” sounds like you want her qualified as a chief medical officer with a doctorate’s degree in medicine not as an administrative health director.
    I rate your “journalism” biased, facetious, misleading, and politically motivated.

      • I mean seriously at least bother to read them. I hope some arguments and feeling of guilt gets through at some point. Keep deleting responses so you look reasonable and I didn’t bother to reply two your pithy two item correction.
        -T

      • If you’re going to bother to delete all my responses to these at least delete the original comment like the fascist you seem to be.
        -T

      • I hope you have this delete reasonable responses automated Suzanne, I can keep posting comments calling you out as a censoring demagogue all day.
        Perhaps take the time to delete some of the conservative far right vitriol above rather than force out moderates who are the majority of Alaskans?
        -T

      • Suzanne Downing is a censoring demagogue who utilizes this platform to encourage a far right brand of crazy and not civil discourse. She is too cowardly to allow a knowledgeable and reasoned discourse on her site.
        -T

      • Suzanne Downing is a censoring demagogue who utilizes this platform to encourage a far right brand of crazy and not civil discourse. She is too cowardly to allow a knowledgeable and reasoned discourse on her site. Please stop deleting all responses that are centrist view points calling you out on dishonest journalism.
        -T

      • Suzanne Downing is a censoring demagogue who utilizes this platform to encourage a far right brand of crazy and not civil discourse. She is too cowardly to allow a knowledgeable and reasoned discourse on her site. Please stop deleting all responses that are centrist view points calling you out on dishonest journalism.
        -T

      • Suzanne Downing is a censoring demagogue who utilizes this platform to encourage a far right brand of crazy and not civil discourse. She is too cowardly to allow a knowledgeable and reasoned discourse on her site. Please stop deleting all responses that are centrist view points calling you out on dishonest journalism.
        -T

      • Suzanne Downing is a censoring demagogue who utilizes this platform to encourage a far right brand of crazy and not civil discourse. She is too cowardly to allow a knowledgeable and reasoned discourse on her site. Please stop deleting all responses that are centrist view points calling you out on dishonest journalism.
        -T

  • But Heather Harris kept her mouth shut about the Little Ethan pictures (except she does have that big smile) whereas the Maria Athens let the world know, and Harris still has her job.

  • Another shallow appointment, thanks to Berkowitz and liberal arm of the Assembly; howdy Felix! Curious to know if she was vetted for gay, racial preferences as opposed to authenticate professional experience within a medical sphere. Hmmm?
    Perhaps all the ‘Proust’ read in graduate school exceeds basic requisites, particularly those necessary to the health of the public, us voters.
    Her ‘eject’ handle is warming to the touch.

  • Suzanne Downing is a censoring demagogue who utilizes this platform to encourage a far right brand of crazy and not civil discourse. She is too cowardly to allow a knowledgeable and reasoned discourse on her site. Please stop deleting all responses that are centrist view points calling you out on dishonest journalism.
    -T

      • I grew up in a liberal democrat household and recall, with sadness, the unbridled anger at everyone and everything. In my childhood two outstanding emotions filled our household: envy and greed. To anyone possessing more than us, they must have stolen it from the working man. Even in her 99th year on my last visit to see her before she died, my mother lectured that the only way the rich get richer is to steal from the poor. Of course, we were not poor, we ran a private business and ultimately a politically appointed position as payback for years of service to the party. But it was constant anger at anyone who might have more and wanting ‘our fair share.’ The fault of everything always lay with some other group, the same as the democrats use today to divide us. Holidays ended in screaming, throwing chairs and skidding tires. To this day, thinking of my family brings sadness for the love of things over the love of each other, and the continuous blame of others for not just any failure, but also any success which might only have been greater if not for ‘them’. But that is the way of progressives. Anger above all at anyone and everyone else. Shout, type in CAPS, blame others for everything and always play the victim. I heard it all until I grew old and wise enough to run as far as I could. I love my family, but in small doses now. So Suzanne, TT/TY is like the scorpion in the scorpion and the frog fable. He can’t help it, it is his nature even if it destroys us all. We should pity him, but any effort to educate or redeem is just a waste of resources better put to those worthy of redemption.

      • Thank you Suzanne. TT’s constant drip, drip, drip was maddening.

    • Repost what was censored rather than copying and pasting the accusation.

  • We Sourdoughs used to say “Only in Alaska” This is one of the biggest laughs I have had in a long time. No health experience but become the head of the the health department. Suzanne, you are one of the ONLY one (in my opinion) who is a Journalist. The rest are Narrative Promoters. That is why I wrote to Ryan Binkley and told him to rename the Anchorage Daily News the Washington Post/Anchorage Edition. Keep up the good work
    Suzanne and don’t let the devils get you down.

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