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Thurston County's public health director resigns less than two years into job

Olympian - 5/31/2024

May 31—Thurston County's public health director resigned Friday just 17 months after taking on the role.

The county hired David Bayne to lead its Public Health and Social Services department in December 2022 after a nationwide search. He submitted his resignation letter to County Manager Leonard Hernandez on Friday, according to a news release.

"While we are disappointed to see David leave the county, we appreciate his leadership and contributions to our county, especially as we continue to work through the recovery phase of the COVID pandemic," Hernandez said in a prepared statement.

The release says Bayne chose to "pursue a new opportunity" outside the county. Jennifer Freiheit, assistant director of PHSS, has reportedly agreed to serve as interim director for now.

"The leadership team looks forward to supporting Dr. Freiheit and all the hardworking employees of PHSS through this transition," Hernandez said. "The work they do is vital to our community."

Bayne and Freiheit began their roles at about the same time and have been working together since then, per the release. The county reportedly offered Freiheit the assistant director position after the same nationwide search that led the county to Bayne.

This is the second time within the last three years that a PHSS director has resigned. Former PHSS director Schelli Slaughter announced her resignation in December 2021, citing personal reasons.

Slaughter left the role in January 2022 after leading the department through the early years of the pandemic. The county initially said it wanted to replace Slaughter in early 2022, but it took a long nationwide recruitment process for them to find a replacement.

It's unclear if a similar process will follow Bayne's resignation. The release only says the county is assessing the department's next steps.

Bayne previously worked over four years for the Washington State Department of Health and nearly seven years at the Georgia Department of Public Health, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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