Santa Barbara County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Charity Dean, turned in her resignation yesterday and announced she’s been appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as assistant director of the California Department of Public Health. Dean, known for her accessibility and direct speaking style, has been in charge of infectious and communicable diseases for the county’s health department and has been a major player in emergency response planning efforts.
She said it remains to be determined exactly what her focus will be with the state but that communicable diseases will be very much involved. As assistant director, Dean will work in Sacramento, where the scope and scale of her job duties will be considerably bigger and broader than her current responsibilities. Her pay, however, will be $50,000 a year less. “I love public service,” Dean declared.
Dean worked in Santa Barbara seven and a half years, the last three as the county’s public health officer. She has a double master’s from Tulane in public health and tropical medicine. “People always ask what tropical medicine has to do with California,”” she recounted. “In recent years, the answer’s been a lot.” State health officials have been scrambling recently to deal with numerous mosquito-borne illnesses — such the Zika virus — that hitherto were considered exotic.
In political circles, Dean, a vocal Democrat, has been a figure of interest and curiosity as pundits have wondered what office she might run for. Dean was born in Oregon, the child of an Air Force family. As part of her job as health officer, Dean has traveled and always liked it. “Every time I got there, I don’t want to leave. It feels like I’m home,” she said.
Yes, the summers will be hotter in Sacramento, she said, but she’ll be 90 minutes away from the snow. “I’ll be swapping out palm trees for pine trees,” she said.
Dean’s last day on the job in Santa Barbara will be October 26. It remains to be seen by whom and how her position will be filled.