During their meeting Thursday, the members of the Washoe County District Board of Health (BOH) discussed an agenda item the Washoe County Commission will take up at its meeting next week to replace board member Tom Young.
Young has been on the BOH since 2017 as the county’s appointee. His four-year term on the board expired in December 2020, but he could have remained on the board until at least 2024 had the commission not made the decision to replace him.
Scott Oxarart, spokesperson for the Washoe County Health District, said the agency had been notified that a recruitment by the county was under consideration but not notified that it had been open.
Spokesperson for the county Bethany Drysdale said the BOH was made aware earlier this summer of the commission’s intent to appoint someone new to the seat.
The recruitment was opened the week of Aug. 16 and closed Sept. 3.
Young was not considered for reappointment. Instead, the position was advertised on the county’s website and two people applied—Sheryl Bennett and John Klacking. On Tuesday, the county commission is expected to pick one of them.
Board members express disappointment
Young is the owner of Great Basin Brewing and has recently held vaccination events at the South Virginia location, offering a “beer and a shot” promotion in which people who show up to get vaccinated receive a free beer. He also donated food and the root beer he makes for an event to honor the Nevada National Guard’s efforts during the pandemic.
During his staff report to the board, WCHD Health Officer Kevin Dick noted that the health district would have advertised the position on its website but was not notified that the application period had been opened.
Several BOH members expressed their dismay at the county’s decision.
Board member Dr. Reka Danko said she wanted to start with a quote that was written on a whiteboard in a hospital in Idaho that she’d been sent a photo of.
“It was written by one of the intensive care physicians working in that hospital: ‘In the end, what sustains us and what we will remember about having survived this madness are the remarkable people who endured this with us—the best of humanity, all of us who have demonstrated the best of our calling. We endured this together, and supported each other. We saved lives and lost lives. And we did both with compassion and competence. We will not forget this,’” she said.
Young, Danko said, exemplifies the best of humanity.
John Novak expressed this “absolute disappointment” with the county commission’s decision.
“To do this, to not afford him an opportunity or even ask him if he would like to continue on this board, I think is a huge oversight,” he said. “I would really like to see that oversight corrected. It still can be corrected.”
Novak said he was not implying anything negative about the two people the county commission will consider but believes Young is a valuable asset to the board.
“[Young] never asked for anybody to say anything good about him, but I am,” Novak said. “He’s a hell of a man… I think he needs to be considered to be placed back on this board. With absolutely no question, he’s an amazing person. Thank you, Tom.”
Young also expressed his disappointment.
He noted that the Board of Health members are not compensated and not politically motivated. He said as a business person he knows the importance of getting the best person for a job and questioned the prudence of only advertising the board position on the county’s website that “no one really looks at.”
“But let’s try to do the right thing and get the right people for this job because this is very, very important for the community,” Young said.
Board of Health Vice Chair Bob Lucey, who is also a Washoe County commissioner, thanked Young for his service on the board.
“You have brought forth, as everyone has pointed out, a level of compassion and understanding and commitment and dedication to this district for many, many years,” he said. “I want to thank you for your service.
“I hope that you find some peace in this, but, yes, there are sometimes changes necessary. I apologize if you feel that the system is failing you in that sense, and I apologize for those of you that feel that same way, but I am always available for conversation with that.”
No reason has been given by the county commission for not considering reappointing Young.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.