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Posted on: July 8, 2022

Key staff to join Arapahoe County Public Health

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Arapahoe County Public Health (ACPH) has filled six critical leadership positions in anticipation of being fully operational by Jan. 1, 2023:

  • Penny Grande as deputy director
  • Michele Askenazi as director of environmental health, communicable disease, emergency preparedness and response
  • Heather Baumgartner as director of planning and health promotion
  • Jill Bonczynski as director of nutrition
  • Melissa Spencer as director of nursing
  • Breanna Paderewski as director of admin and operations

“Securing staff to aid in transitional decision-making over the next five months and for operations in the new year is the next milestone in the creation of Arapahoe County Public Health,” Foundational Board of Health chair Nancy Sharpe said. “This is a forward-thinking group of individuals who we expect to consider outside-the-box options based on their longstanding relationships with Arapahoe County residents, businesses and staff.”

Grande will join Arapahoe County full-time beginning this month, while Askenazi, Baumgartner, Bonczynski, Paderewski and Spencer will continue working at the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) to ensure continuity of service through the remainder of the year before joining ACPH full-time in January 2023.

“Each individual we’ve hired has a deep understanding of the unique public health needs of Arapahoe County,” ACPH Public Health Director Jennifer Ludwig said. “Their work at Tri-County Health Department in the coming months will be instrumental to the continuance of services for residents through the end of the year. They are well-suited to hit the ground running on Jan. 1 to make the transition to a single-county health department as seamless as possible.”

Grande has more than 20 years of public health nursing experience and a proven track record developing and implementing clinical programs and initiatives. Most recently, she served as director of nursing for TCHD, overseeing daily operations of the agency’s largest division, with a $16 million budget and 175 employees. During her tenure, Grande successfully developed and launched TCHD’s syringe access program and coordinated vaccine allocations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Askenazi is an experienced public health leader, epidemiologist and incident commander, responding to numerous measles, water and food-related contamination incidents as well as the COVID and H1N1 pandemics. In her current position at TCHD, she has worked in close coordination with Arapahoe County to provide leadership in emergency response efforts for fires, floods and mass casualty incidents. Beyond her local-level expertise, Askenazi is nationally recognized, serving as a member of the CDC Center for Preparedness and Response, Board of Scientific Counselors and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Preparedness Policy Advisory Group.

For more than 25 years, Baumgartner has supported healthy living in Colorado communities through the promotion of evidence-based and innovative public health strategies. In her role as TCHD’s Director of Community Health Promotion, she has worked with teams to champion health equity, prevent chronic disease, and promote mental and behavioral health. She brings a long record of accomplishment at state and local levels establishing structures, processes, and resources needed to achieve public health goals successfully.

Bonczynski has supported maternal and child health at both the county and state levels for nearly 20 years, addressing food insecurity concerns. As TCHD’s director of nutrition services, she oversaw the largest WIC program in Colorado, with a $5.6 million budget and 11 clinic locations. She has been nationally recognized with the National WIC Association Leadership award where she was nominated by her staff for process improvement in annual planning efforts to improve WIC services.

Spencer is dedicated to supporting the development of lasting strategies that address critical public health challenges within the jurisdiction and community. As the director of nursing at TCHD, she oversees the internal operations of the division and more than 13 programs that support the healthy social, physical and emotional development of children and their families. Spencer has over 14 years of experience in public health, 10 of which have been in nurse management.

With her comprehensive understanding of the interworking of the TCHD, Paderewski is responsible for the development and implementation of their $68 million budget. Her career spans both state and local governments and showcases her expertise in budgeting, fiscal impact and policy analysis, and revenue forecasting.

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