By | May 19, 2020


May 19,2020

In late January of this year it was acknowledged that Covid-19 entered our country. The nation suddenly found itself in the grip of a pandemic. The government turned to national health experts across the country to help, they in time turned to State health officials who then turned to local health department officials to assist in mapping out the course of this virus and the care and containment of it. Thus effectively becoming “The Guardians” of our lives locally during this pandemic.

Our local health department (Foothills Health District) became “Command Central” for the State for Rutherford and McDowell counties. One of the big misconceptions is that FHD (Foothills Health District) works under the auspices of the County Commissioners. That is not true. FHD is a State Board and answers to the State only. They actually work in conjunction with the County Commissioners as they both hold equal weight with State officials. The County Commissioners do provide funding for them but only appoints a Commissioner to their board who then appoints members of the Board, but does not in any way hire or make policy for them. A County Commissioner from both counties are appointed to serve on the FHD board and make appointments therein.

On July 1, 2019 the former Polk, Rutherford, McDowell Health Department changed when Polk County decided to have their own public health department. They are now known as Foothills Health District. Foothills Health District (FHD) is a Public Health Agency dedicated to serving the citizens of both Rutherford and McDowell counties The Foothills Health District (FHD) is responsible for protecting and improving the public’s health in Rutherford and McDowell counties, in addition to promoting healthy and active lifestyles while preventing the spread of disease. The majority of the staff remained with the new Foothills Health District.

What does a Board of Health do? It is the responsibility of the Foothills Health District Board of Health to be the policy-making, rule-making and adjudicatory body for  Rutherford and McDowell Counties. This becomes extremely important during times of a health care crises such as the one we are currently involved in.

Who is this board and how and how are they appointed? North Carolina General Statute 130A-37. District board of health states the following:

“(a) A district board of health shall be the policy-making, rule-making and adjudicatory body for a district health department and shall be composed of 15 members; provided, a district board of health may be increased up to a maximum number of 18 members by agreement of the boards of county commissioners in all counties that comprise the district. The agreement shall be evidenced by concurrent resolutions adopted by the affected boards of county commissioners.

(b) The county board of commissioners of each county in the district shall appoint one county commissioner to the district board of health. The county commissioner members of the district board of health shall appoint the other members of the board, including at least one physician licensed to practice medicine in this State, one licensed dentist, one licensed optometrist, one licensed veterinarian, one registered nurse, one licensed pharmacist, and one professional engineer. The composition of the board shall reasonably reflect the population makeup of the entire district and provide equitable district-wide representation. All members shall be residents of the district. If there is not a licensed physician, a licensed dentist, a licensed optometrist, a licensed veterinarian, a registered nurse, a licensed pharmacist, or a professional engineer available for appointment, an additional representative of the general public shall be appointed. If however, one of the designated professions has only one person residing in the district, the county commissioner members shall have the option of appointing that person or a member of the general public……….”

Foothills Health District Board of Directors Information:

1) Lynn Greene  appointed 9/12/19 as McDowell County Commissioner (needs orientation) term expires with commissioner term

2) Greg Lovelace appointed 7/01/19 as Rutherford County Commissioner (oriented 01/04/13) term expires with commissioner term

3) Dr. Ben Hall, Board Chair (Optometrist) appointed 07/01/19 until 06/30/22 (oriented 5-13-13) Executive committee [McDowell]

4) Kim Warner (Professional Engineer) appointed 07/01/19 until 6/30/22 (oriented 02/01/17) Executive committee [Rutherford]

5) Carol Wolfenbarger (Registered Nurse) appointed 07/01/19 until 6/30/22 (oriented 08/26/15) Executive committee [McDowell]

6) Sarah Bradley (Registered Nurse) appointed 07/01/19 until 6/30/22 (oriented 3/5/15) [Rutherford]

7) Julie Harris (Pharmacist) appointed 07/01/19 until 6/30/22  (oriented 03/04/19) [McDowell]

8) Dr. David M. Sutton ,Superintendent RCS (Public) appointed 07/01/19 until 6/30/21 (oriented 11/09/18) [Rutherford]

9) Dr. James M. Gaskill, DDS (Dentist) appointed 07/01/19 until 6/30/22 (needs orientation) [McDowell]

10) Craig Sargent  Vice-Chair (Public) appointed 7/01/19 until 6/30/22 (oriented 3/5/14) Executive committee [McDowell]

11) Dr. Jerald DeLaGarza, MD (Pediatrician) appointed 7/01/19 until 6/30/21 (oriented 5/12/15) {Rutherford]

12) Amy Jenkins ,Realtor  (Public) appointed 7/01/19 until 6/30/21 (needs orientation) [Rutherford]

13) Dr. Christopher N. Buchanan, DVM (Veterinarian) appointed 7/01/19 until 06/30/22 (needs orientation) [Rutherford]

Neil Perry (Pastor) Public, appointed  recently by Greg Lovelace but has not been sworn in as of this date.[Rutherford]

Sharon Parker ( Board attorney)

There is one (1) board vacancy noted for McDowell County.

Karen Powell

Karen Powell is the Public Health Director for the Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District. Karen has worked in Public Health for 11 years. She has served in many roles with RPM, including Health Choice Coordinator, Child Care Health Consultant, Preparedness Coordinator and as Health Director for 2 years.

Karen received her bachelor’s degree from Greensboro College in Sociology and a Master’s Degree from Webster University in Health Care Management. Karen currently serves as the NC Region 2 Health Director representative.

Board meeting are supposed to be held at least once a quarter and are supposed to be open to the public. Currently I cannot find any information as to the date of their next meeting or access any transcripts of their previous meetings on their website. I have notified them of some of the website issues. According to Dr. Ben Hall FHD Board Chair, at the most recent Rutherford County Commissioners meeting they have not met since this (Covid-19) started and although several board members have been updated via phone by Ms. Powell there is no transcript of that call available. I hope to be able to post the date and time of the next meeting when that is made available to me.

This is one of a series of articles about Foothills Health District explaining who they are and what they do. If you have any questions specific to Foothills Health District please send me an email to the address below and I will attempt to get them answered for you.

If you have any information or questions about a Covid-19 situation at a business or institution that you would like investigated please contact me at 

(all communications are confidential)

*This article is a personal observation and does not reflect the position of RC Catalyst in any way.