Mark Lawley, director of the Weld County Department of Health and Environment, has left his post.
The Weld County Board of Commissioners has ordered staff to begin a nationwide search, according to a news release. Gene O’Hara will assume the role of interim director.
O’Hara is a retired healthcare executive who most recently served as CEO of Colorado Plains Medical Center at Fort Morgan from 2014 to 2018. Prior to that, he held the same position at North Colorado Medical Center from 2004 to 2009. He served as earned a Masters in Healthcare Administration from the University of Colorado and has served on the Aims Community College Board of Trustees since 2017.
Lawley assumed the role of deputy director in May 2020, months after the pandemic forced the United States into lockdown. The commissioners appointed Lawley as executive director in December 2020 following the tumultuous departure of former executive director Mark Wallace.
In an interview with the NoCo Optimist, commissioner Mike Freeman said it was “entirely” Lawley’s decision to leave.
“And he leaves with all his thanks and gratitude for getting us through the worst health disaster we’ve ever seen,” Freeman said.
Although the announcement of Lawley’s departure came Thursday, some health department staff said he had not been seen in the office since August 9. As of Wednesday, health department staff were aware of Lawley’s absence, but not of his resignation. Until Thursday, Lawley hadn’t set up out of office messaging.
Freeman said Lawley was using her three weeks of saved vacation time to complete her time at the health department. Its last official day will be September 1.
Previously, Lawley spent 37 years in the fire department for Mountain View Fire Rescue in Longmont before retiring in 2017. He then served as a strategic planning consultant for a few years and continued to work in consulting to government, business and non-profit.
In 2017, Lawley left Mountain View Fire Rescue a year before the end of his contract under murky circumstances, according to a report by Colorado Hometown Weekly. The board then voted unanimously to end the contract early after an hour-long executive session.
In 2020, Weld commissioners considered no one else for the role after Wallace left despite receiving nearly 300 applications, according to a report by the Greeley Tribune.
Freeman said in 2020, the commissioners knew it could take several months to hire someone for the job, so they recruited Lawley to lead the health department.
“We wanted someone we could trust and who we fully trusted to do the job,” Freeman said.
Although Freeman indicated that Lawley’s departure was amicable, he said he didn’t see it coming.
“I’m disappointed to see him go, but on the other hand, I completely understand,” Freeman said. “I have no doubt that running a health service, especially during a pandemic, is one of the most stressful things you can do.”
— Kelly Ragan is the founder and editor of the NoCo Optimist. You can usually find her covering Greeley and Weld county government. Do you have any advice? Let him know at [email protected] Do you like this report? Let the Greeley Tribune know so they’ll keep her around. Find more NoCo Optimist content at www.thenocooptimist.com.