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The Metro Nashville Health Department governing board is teeing up a process to search for a new director of health.

The board of health is starting to look for the next director — a process that will include a recruiting firm retained by the city, according to board minutes — as the current chief, Dr. Bill Paul, comes up on the last year of his contract. Paul joined in 2007. His tenure has consisted of a pair of five-year contracts and the current two-year contract, which is set to expire in July 2019, said Brian Todd, spokesman for the agency.

The mayoral transition and upcoming election won’t impact the search and hiring process because it’s driven by the board of health, said Judith Byrd, press secretary for Mayor David Briley.

The board could ultimately decide to extend Paul’s tenure under a new contract, said Todd, adding that it’s too early in the process to say. Both Paul and the board would have to agree on a new contract. Paul’s predecessor had a pair of five-year contracts followed by a three-year contract, said Todd. The board will make the decision about how to proceed.

Dr. Bill Paul

Minutes from a board work session outlined a process that will heat up in late summer or early fall when Metro Human Resources proposes who should be on a subject matter expert panel and an interview panel.

Those on the subject matter panel will review all applications and an interview panel will meet select candidates. The board is tasked with both recommending potential applicants and people to sit on the panels, according to the minutes. The board will interview a handful of finalists.

Carol Etherington, chair of the board and an associate professor at the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, said via email it was premature to talk about the future of the search, a timeline for identifying candidates, what qualifications the board wants or whether the public would have any input.

Paul, who worked at the Chicago Department of Public Health before moving to Nashville, is a champion of health in all policies, meaning he wants all aspects and corners of the city government to consider impact on health.

Paul has recently pushed more access to mental health care as a way to reduce the number of people in city jails and programs that encourage health and wellbeing in public housing, workplaces and zoning.

The metro health department also oversees animal control, the city’s mosquito control efforts, vehicle emissions, and a host of health programs from emergency preparedness to research on health outcomes in Davidson County.

It operates three health centers in the county, including the headquarters at Lentz Public Health Center.

The health department and its board are primarily public health entities and are separate from Nashville General Hospital at Meharry and its board. Paul also sits on the task force rethinking Nashville General’s future.

Board members are appointed to five-year terms by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.