In their meeting this morning, the Grand County Board of County Commissioners, while sitting as the Board of Public Health, heard from Public Health Director Brene Belew-LaDue.

Anticipating a supplement to the update provided by Medical Director Darcy Selenke, the BOCC was surprised to hear Belew-LaDue start by reading a letter to the commissioners advising of her resignation, effective January 15, 2021. Belew-LaDue stated, “This is my choice for my health, mental health and my family.”

In her letter, Belew-LaDue stated, “I am proud of the accomplishments and the services that Grand County Public Health, healthcare and senior services has provided to the community. The health of the community has always been my first priority. This decision is difficult for me, especially during such a time of great need.”

“It makes me sad to leave behind all the professionals I’ve worked with over the years. Last year, in October 2019, I realized that my values and mission in life, and our public health mission, did not align with the goals of the current BOCC. I quote, statements from The BOCC from the Public Health budget hearings on October 7, 2019. The first quote. ‘The only thing we have to do as a county is have one public health director’. The second is, ‘as far as an emergency, we could look for federal monies and emergency funds’. And then third, ‘we could call in reserves rather than have an FTE all the time’. These quotes were in reference to a questioning of the need for all the Public Health staff and the need to continue our vaccine program, in order to be prepared for an epidemic or pandemic.” She noted, “Clearly, in the time of coronavirus and the East Troublesome fire, thank goodness that approach was not taken.”

“The BOCC Board of Health has been supportive of the financial decisions we have made over the last year, as a whole, and until recently, the BOCC has not favored the public health prevention methods that we have supported, nor the state, nor the nation. The fact is, Grand County Public Health prevention measures have always been in alignment with the state and the nation.”

“Before I close, I want to thank my staff, that has been so supportive during this chaotic year. There are a few that have been part of my team for many years. I treasure their loyalty to Grand County Public Health. They have done excellent work with county citizens to keep them fed and assist with their health needs. I want to commend Abbie Baker and the basis for the leadership she has shown during COVID, especially the challenges of other contact tracing and investigation teams.”

“I also want to thank the Headwaters Incident Management Team. The IMT, with their leadership and work that was done in the spring, this county stayed in a low level of COVID disease. It was an honor to serve at the IMT and I have great respect and admiration for the team. I have a great deal for our Medical Officer, Dr. Darcy Selenke. She has been my mentor, my rock, and my sounding board during this ordeal. She has given many hours to this response. Grand County is fortunate to have a caring and generous professional.”

Belew-LaDue closed, saying, “With my departure is my great hope the Board of County Commissioners Board of Health will be able to look at the big picture and lead the county through the continued response and recovery.”

It took a moment for the commissioners to gather their thoughts after Belew-LaDue finished.

Commisioner Richard Cimino said, “We appreciate the 17 years you have given us, Brene.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.” Cimino observed they had a few weeks to work to find an interim replacement by January 15.

Commissioner Merrit Linke echoed Cimino’s sentiment, saying, “We do appreciate your service to Grand County.”

Commissioner Chair Kristen Manguso said, “I say the same. Thank you, Brene.” Manguso added,  “I understand that there have been personal attacks made on you. There is no reason for anyone to attack a Grand County employee. That it happened to you is wrong. Thank you – I wish you luck.”