Lori Christenson

Lori Christenson

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The Gallatin County Commission and Bozeman City Commission are expected next week to appoint a new public health officer after the Gallatin City-County Board of Health recommended Lori Christenson to the position last week.

After a round of interviews, including a public forum with three finalists, the Gallatin City-County Board of Health on Thursday recommended Christenson to fill the position soon to be left vacant by outgoing Health Officer Matt Kelley.

Other candidates vetted by the board of health include Junie Delizo and Leslie Carroll.

In announcing the decision, the Board of Health hiring committee said Christenson’s background in policy development and environmental health and past work with the Gallatin Valley Food Bank made her the clear choice.

The board’s recommendation must be approved by the county commission and city commission following a new law that limits the power of local health boards.

House Bill 121, signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte in April, revoked power from the Board of Health to unilaterally appoint the health officer itself.

The Gallatin County commissioners are scheduled to decide on Christenson’s appointment during a public meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

If county commissioners move to appoint her, the Bozeman City Commission will have next say during its public meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

As the local government works to navigate the new hiring process, it’s unclear what will happen if the county or city do not approve Christenson.

Christenson now serves as the director of environmental health services for the health department. She is scheduled to start as an interim health officer on June 7, filling in for Kelley.

Kelley announced in March he would be leaving his position in June for a new job as CEO of Montana Public Health Institute. His last day is June 7.

Before working at the health department, Christenson was the manager of the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, where she helped expand programs to address hunger among Bozeman’s vulnerable populations.

Christenson has an undergraduate degree in resource conservation from the University of Montana and a master’s degree in public health from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

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Juliana Sukut can be reached at 582-2630 or jsukut@dailychronicle.com

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