Ellis steps down as county health department director

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SALISBURY — After about 15 months on the job, County Health Department Director Barbara Ellis abruptly resigned last week.

County officials said Ellis stepped down to spend time with family in Michigan and offered to give the county a 30-day notice, but board officials waived the notice and appointed Nina Oliver to the interim director post.

“[Ellis] said that at this point in time she realized that she’s a grandmother and there’s a lot of opportunities that she’s missed with her family,” County Manager Gary Page said Tuesday.

Ellis could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Ellis submitted her resignation to the county’s health board at a Nov. 12 board meeting. The board promptly tapped Oliver for the department’s top spot.

“They wanted the interim to be able to start the next day. You can’t have two bosses on the same job,” Page said. “They wanted the interim to start immediately. We felt like we were going along with the wishes of the health board.”

The county will continue to pay Ellis through the 30 day notice period.

Rick Parker, chairman for the county health board, said he was surprised after Ellis submitted her resignation. He said the board wanted to move quickly to bring in a replacement for Ellis.

That choice, he said, was Oliver, a 10-year employee board members had grown to respect.

“Her talent was recognized has been recognized over the past several years,” Parker said, adding that she has presented information to the board on several occasions.

The 35-year-old Oliver said she was surprised by the appointment, but is grateful and plans to apply for the director position.

“I think my mouth dropped open,” she said with a laugh. “I was kind of speechless.”

Oliver has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in health promotion from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Oliver said she worked in Rowan County for the duration of her public health experience and has experience in dental, health promotions and most recently in a nursing supervisor role.

“I just fell in love with it. I love the education part and trying to improve the quality of life,” Oliver said. “That’s what public health is all about: improving the quality of life.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.