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Gallatin County plans to hold a virtual public forum Thursday with the finalists for the county health officer position.

The three finalists are scheduled to be announced Tuesday, county spokesperson Whitney Bermes said in an email. The public forum planned for Thursday will be their final interview. Thirteen candidates applied in total, according to a press release.

People can submit questions ahead of time at BOHPublicComment@gallatin.mt.gov and submit comments the same way after the forum. There will be no public comments during the forum itself, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday.

The interviews will be recorded and posted online, according to the release.

There isn’t a timeframe for a decision on the appointment, Bermes said, but a committee doing the interviews may make a recommendation for a candidate after the forum.

The Gallatin City-County Board of Health, which is next scheduled to meet on May 27, would then take up the issue.

The board does not have the final say on the matter, due to a recent change in state law. House Bill 121, which Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law earlier this year, changes the power of health boards from being able to appoint health officers to only being able to recommend candidates to the board’s governing body.

The Gallatin City-County Health Board is formed from an interlocal agreement between Bozeman and Gallatin County.

Bermes said the county is planning for the board of health to take up the issue. The board’s recommendation on a finalist would then be sent to the city and county commissions for final decisions.

The process may be subject to change, Bermes said.

County Health Officer Matt Kelley announced in March he would be leaving his position in June for another job. The health board voted to recommend department employee Lori Christenson as interim health officer if the position is not filled before Kelley leaves.

People can sign up for the virtual forum at https://bit.ly/3ocuTlJ, or can tune in by calling 253-215-8782 and entering the webinar ID: 912 8393 4064 and passcode: 258167.

Comments before the meeting will be accepted until 4 p.m. Tuesday, and comments after the meeting can be submitted until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 26.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the forum is being held. The forum is Thursday, May 20.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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