Linehan is new BOH member

Dec 10, 2019 by

Published in the December 10, 2019 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD – Candace Linehan of Oak Street is the newest member of the Board of Health. The nurse practitioner was appointed by a unanimous 9-0 vote at a joint meeting of the Board of Health and Town Council last night to fill the slot vacated by the resignation of Alison Mehlman.

Under Massachusetts General Laws, when mid-term vacancies occur on an elected municipal board, “the selectmen, with the remaining member or members of such board, shall, after one week’s notice, fill such vacancy by roll call vote.”

Board of Health Chair Laurel Gourville and board member Elaine Silva told the Town Council last night that they had interviewed all five applicants to fill the position: Linehan, Thomas Marchant, Anita Loughlin, Mary Lareau and Katherine Messenger. They were impressed with the qualifications of all five candidates, Gourville and Silva told the Town Council, but felt that Linehan was the best fit at this time.

Gourville noted that “social determinants” of health, including behavioral and substance abuse issues, are growing concerns locally and in public health generally. Linehan’s work with vulnerable populations and the fact that she speaks several languages, including Spanish and Portuguese, were seen as particular strengths.

Linehan currently holds the position of Family Nurse Practitioner at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. She has a master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in health policy and management from Boston University. She earned her master’s degree in Nursing from Regis College.

In her letter of application to fill the position on the Board of Health, Linehan outlined her reasons for seeking the position.

“I have two young daughters and, as you can imagine, their health and well-being are of the highest importance to me,” she wrote. “I would like to contribute to making Wakefield a healthy and safe place for them and for all residents. I also hope to ensure that the needs of Wakefield’s most vulnerable populations are acknowledged and understood by the Board of Health. I would value the opportunity to collaborate with other board members and apply my primary care experience to population management, wellness promotion and environmental protection.”

Linehan will serve until next April’s Town Election. At that point, she may run for election.

The occasion of last night’s appointment also served as an opportunity to discuss expanding the size of the currently three-member Board of Health.

Ann Santos, who served several terms on the Board of Health before being elected to the Town Council, noted that the role of the Board of Health has grown tremendously in the years since she was on the board. However, it would require a change to the Town Charter to increase the size of the Board of Health to five members.

Silva, a retired school nurse with a background in public health, agreed that the field has grown tremendously and policies have to change constantly to keep pace. She said that the varied backgrounds that a larger board could bring to the table would be valuable.

Town Counsel Thomas Mullen was asked what the legal requirements would be to expand the size of the Board of Health.

First, Town Meeting would have to vote by two-thirds majority to place the proposal on the ballot at the next Town Election, Mullen explained. Then, information would have to be sent to every household explaining the ballot proposal.

Town Councilor Mehreen Butt pointed out that in the last few election cycles, there has been competition for Board of Health positions. That show of interest in the board argued for expanding its membership, she said.

Gourville said that she hoped that the remaining four applicants would continue their interest in the Board of Health and perhaps consider getting involved with one of the Health Department’s initiatives such as WAKE-UP (substance abuse prevention) or Mass in Motion.

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