‘We have got to stay the course’: Knox County commissioners, public health officer speak on delayed health board vote

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KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County’s Board of Health will remain as is, at least until April.

Knox County commissioners have been considering whether to move the health board to an advisory role, but at their Monday night meeting, decided to postpone voting on it for 90 days.

Commissioner Terry Hill made the motion to not take up the item again until commission’s April meeting.

Her fellow commissioners supported the move in a 6-5 vote.

“I felt like it was very important that the community had a little bit of time to breathe. I have advocated from the beginning that to make change in the middle of crisis is not a good thing to do,” Hill said. “I am not pleased with the current structure that we have with our Board of Health. I just did not want to see the change occur immediately.”

The health board proposal was put on the agenda by Commissioner Kyle Ward. After the move to delay its final vote, Ward sent WATE’s Elizabeth Kuebel a statement:

“I respect and support the decisions my fellow commissioners made. We all need to work together and I am encouraged by the strides we are making with our vaccinations.”

Commissioner Kyle Ward

Knox County’s Public Health Officer and Board of Health member Dr. Martha Buchanan also responded at a Knox County Health Department briefing on Tuesday afternoon. She said the postponement is an opportunity to refocus.

“For us to be able to spend more energy, less energy worrying about that, more energy focusing on getting people vaccinated and the Board of Health to focus on their job, which is to make recommendations for mitigation. And honestly for county commission to focus on some other things that they could focus on, such as recovery, economic recovery and other types of recovery that we need to be working on in our community,” Dr. Buchanan said.

Commissioner Hill said she’s relieved that she had her fellow colleagues did not move forward with a final decision on Monday night.

“I believe it would have really created more confusion and chaos and unhappiness, which is not what our community needs right now. We have got to stay the course and pray,” said Hill.

Commissioners Randy Smith, Terry Hill, Richie Beeler, Larsen Jay, Dr. Dasha Lundy and Courtney Durrett voted in support of delaying the Board of Health power change vote until April. Commissioners Kyle Ward, John Schoonmaker, Charles Busler, Carson Dailey and Justin Biggs voted against it.

The Board of Health is scheduled to meet virtually on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 5 p.m.

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