Buncombe hires new health director


Buncombe hires new health director

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Stacie Saunders (Photo: Courtesy of Buncombe County)

ASHEVILLE – Buncombe announced over the weekend that it has selected a new Public Health director who will oversee the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, among other responsibilities, when she takes up the role on Aug. 3.

Stacie Saunders comes to Buncombe from Alamance County, where she also served as Public Health director.

Buncombe’s previous health director, Jan Shepard, retired March 13 — days before the county confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in a visitor to the county.

Since then, medical director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore has served as interim public health director, leading the local response to the pandemic, speaking to government officials and providing regular community updates.

More: Buncombe County has not yet hit coronavirus peak, health officials say

Buncombe interim health director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore speaks in a county coronavirus update June 4, 2020. (Photo: Buncombe County)

As of the morning of June 29, Alamance County had tallied 1,088 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 37 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

In Buncombe, the case count was 550, with 37 deaths, according to the county’s website.

Who is Stacie Saunders?

Saunders is the president-elect of the NC Association of Local Health Directors and holds a master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.

Buncombe County Health and Human Service Director Stoney Blevins said in a county release that she was selected from a field of more than 60 applicants from across the United States.

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“We are very pleased to bring Mrs. Saunders to our county to lead our public health programs,” said Blevins. “She is well recognized across North Carolina as a leader in public health and she has the technical and relational skills to lead our county’s public health program now and into the future.”

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Saunders is a native of southwest Virginia. She moved to North Carolina in 2005. She and her husband have two children.

In Buncombe’s release, she said she is “excited to serve the people who live, learn and work in Buncombe.”

“I look forward to exploring the health priorities and opportunities for better health in Buncombe and I also look forward to exploring the natural beauty of the area,” she said.

Mackenzie Wicker covers Buncombe County for the Asheville Citizen Times. You can reach her at mwicker@citizentimes.com or follow her on Twitter @MackWick.

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