Wood County’s new health commissioner is coming home.
Benjamin Robison, a Bowling Green High School and Bowling Green State University graduate, was selected as the 15th commissioner by the health board at a special meeting Tuesday night. He will be paid $107,889 annually.
Cathy Nelson, board president, said that Robison’s passion and knowledge of Wood County made him stand out. There were 11 applicants for the position.
“Obviously, he has the education that qualifies him for the position. This was something he talked about wanting to do, even when he was in college,” she said. “Everyone was very, very excited about his vision. He knew all about Wood County.
“He knew our mission and our plans.”
Robison earned a master’s degree in public health administration from the Northwest Ohio Consortium for Public Health. He has worked in emergency preparedness and public health for more than 10 years.
At BGSU, he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in public health.
For the last six years, he has been working in Columbus in public health. He and his wife, Jessica, have four children, ages 1-9.
Robison is currently managing the emergency response unit in the bureau of health preparedness in the Ohio Department of Health.
“This is an unprecedented time and my family is still here, many of my friends are here. This is where I grew up and I value (the communities) deeply,” he said. “That’s why I couldn’t pass this up.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Robison heard about coronavirus cases having a record number for the day and how the staff is stressed.
“The pandemic itself is a challenge — just managing the elements of a pandemic is huge,” he said. “But the other work of public health doesn’t end just because of a pandemic.”
Immunizations, environmental health and the Women, Infants and Children program all need attention, he said.
“Already we’re thinking about how do we position ourselves to advance public health on the other side of this pandemic,” Robison said.
With the background check and wrapping up his current job, Robison may not start in Wood County until September, Nelson said.
She was asked about the challenges of hiring a new health commissioner during a pandemic.
“The good news is that he’s already been involved at the state level,” Nelson said.
Ben Batey’s last day as health commissioner was July 24. He is the new chief health officer at Bowling Green State University.
When Batey was hired, a new partnership between BGSU and the health department was announced. Batey is expected to spend about 50% of his time with the county health department initially.
A mutual aid agreement between the health department and BGSU will develop academics and promote cooperation toward improved public health for Wood County and the Northwest Ohio region. The partnership also calls for BGSU to have space at the health department.
Batey will oversee the university response
The two entities will collaborate on mutually agreed upon projects that provide educational opportunities for BGSU students and assist health department employees in serving the public health needs in the community.
The 60-member staff of Wood County Health Department serves more than 125,000 residents through a variety of programs and services. The health department recently celebrated 100 years of protecting and promoting public health.