School Nurses vaccinated

Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley takes a photo of the first school nurse being vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 24 at Willson School.

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Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley will be leaving his role with the health department to lead a statewide public health nonprofit.

The Montana Public Health Institute announced Wednesday afternoon that Kelley has been hired as the organization’s first CEO.

Kelley will continue to serve as the county’s health officer until June and will help with the search to fill the vacancy he’ll leave, according to a news release from the Gallatin City-County Health Department.

“As challenging and trying as the pandemic has been, I love being health officer in Gallatin County and leaving will be very difficult,” Kelley said in the health department news release. “This new role allows me to continue working throughout Montana to improve the health and quality of life for all Montanans. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a new organization to serve the state that I love.”

The Montana Public Health Institute was incorporated as a Montana nonprofit in April 2020. It is part of the National Network of Public Health Institutes and aims to strengthen public health system capacity and conduct nonpartisan research into health policy and health care funding, according to the MTPHI website.

Kelley led the health department’s response to COVID-19. His local work throughout the pandemic drew praise from some health care workers and public officials and ire from others who disagreed with restrictions meant to slow the spread.

In December, protestors claiming public health directives violated their personal rights protested at Kelley’s home for about two weeks — demonstrations led by a pair of local Libertarians who have unsuccessfully run for public office.

Kelley, 50, has been the health officer in Gallatin County for more than a decade. Originally from Wisconsin, he has an undergraduate degree in journalism from Drake University and a master’s in public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Kelley has worked on Capitol Hill as a reporter, in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, in Maryland writing grants for an orphanage and in Washington, D.C., at the Executive Office of the Mayor, where he focused on health and mental health policy and programming, according to the health department news release.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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