Summit County selects Phil Bondurant as next health director
Board of Health promotes from within, citing continuity
The Summit County Board of Health has chosen Deputy Director Phil Bondurant to fill the Health Department’s top post, opting against a broader candidate search in favor of continuity while the pandemic and its aftereffects linger.
Bondurant will succeed retiring Health Director Rich Bullough, whose last day will be Aug. 20. Officials said they would begin a nationwide search immediately for the next deputy director.
The health director oversees a department with 32 employees and a nearly $7 million budget. As the local health officer, the director has broad authority to shut down businesses and order quarantines, powers that Bullough exercised during the early months of the pandemic. The director also oversees vast swaths of programming ranging from mental health services to restaurant inspections to air quality monitoring.
Chris Cherniak, the chair of the Board of Health, said that Bondurant’s credentials, experience and ties to the community made the choice clear.
“We considered opening up the process to other candidates, but quite honestly, after interviewing Dr. Bondurant and hearing from some other individuals in the county, we decided that he was the right individual for this position,” Cherniak said.
According to a prepared statement from Summit County, Bondurant has a doctorate of public health administration from Walden University and a master of public health from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
He has worked for the Summit County Health Department since 2014, and was promoted in 2019 from his role as environmental health director to deputy director. He lives in Heber with his wife and three children.
Bondurant said he was honored to be considered for the position and that he would use the three-month transition period to continue to learn from Bullough and other county leaders.
“I’m excited. I’m nervously excited because there’s a lot of work to be done and to say I have it all wrapped up ready to go right now would be a false statement. But I’m willing to work, I’m ready to work,” Bondurant said. “I’m excited to carry on the traditions in public health that Dr. Bullough has set and to go well beyond that.”
Board members adjusted the three-year employment contract so that Bondurant would not be required to move into Summit County. One board member suggested the director’s salary — which is to start at $136,500 — would be too low to afford to live in the county.
Officials said they began the search for Bullough’s replacement when the outgoing director told them in closed-door meetings in February that he intended to retire.
The statement from Summit County indicates that the board considered other candidates from around the state and that turnover among health directors played into the hiring decision. There are 13 local health departments in Utah and six health directors have retired or announced their retirements since the pandemic began.
Multiple officials cited Bondurant’s leadership during the pandemic and his ability to step in for Bullough as qualifications for the promotion.
In the prepared statement, Bullough indicated support for his successor.
“Phil’s work over the past 16 months as part of the county’s COVID-19 response served as an extended interview for myself and the Board,” Bullough said. “During one of the most challenging years in the history of our health department, Phil demonstrated his ability to respond to complex issues, collaborate with our businesses and address the concerns of our communities. Summit County will benefit from his dedication to Public Health.”
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said that Bondurant’s leadership characteristics were some of the most important qualities in his hiring.
“Not only has he helped Dr. Bullough lead through this incident, the way that he has assisted in gathering a lot of different interests within the community to deal with the pandemic and other issues — and very hairy issues in the past — around public health, but he has demonstrated through that that he is decisive, that he is measured and that he is willing to listen to people and his staff along the way in informing decisions that he has had to make,” Fisher said.
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Summit County’s sales taxes are beating 2019 levels, with an estimated additional $1.2 million in revenue. Councilors debated using the money to hire more employees.