Dr. Frank Velazquez to continue as Spokane County’s interim health officer

SPOKANE, Wash. — Dr. Frank Velazquez will continue to serve as Spokane County’s interim heath director.

The Spokane Regional Health District Board officially appointed Velazquez to the interim position during its monthly meeting on Thursday.

Velazquez has been serving in the role since November, when the board voted to terminate former health officer Dr. Bob Lutz. He has said he has no intention to take over the role, only to help the board until a permanent replacement is found.

Velazquez brings both medical and economic experience to the role, having worked as a physician, as well in health system management. He said he is taking to the role by leading with science and using data to drive his decisions.

The move gives the health district some temporary leadership, but it also made people in the community upset.

The Public Health Action Coalition of Spokane sent a letter to the Regional Board of Health before Thursday’s announcement, in hopes of convincing them to pick another temporary replacement.

“We’re looking for one trustworthy face that we can listen to, to understand what’s going on with public health concerns,” Coalition member Priyanka Bushana said.

They say Dr. Velazquez lacks the needed leadership.

RELATED: ‘I’m wearing my physician hat’: Spokane’s interim health officer brings health, economic experience to community

The coalition also echoed the message of local leaders, who believe the board needs to be reshaped with more voices in public health, rather than politicians.

“We don’t necessarily want to dictate the public health policy, we just want to ensure public health decisions are made by people who have the training to do so,” Bushana said.

During Thursday’s meeting, the board also voted to appoint Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney as the board’s chair.