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Kane County soon may make Jeffers health department director

GENEVA – The County Board soon might make Barb Jeffers’ title the permanent executive director of the Kane County Health Department.

Wednesday, the board’s Executive Committee recommended the full County Board approve a recommendation from County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen to cement Jeffers in the post.

Jeffers has served as interim director of the department since June, when former Executive Director Paul Kuehnert resigned to take a job at a philanthropic organization in New Jersey.

Jeffers has worked in the department about eight years, most recently serving as assistant director for administration before taking the job as interim executive director.

Jeffers would earn an annual salary of $109,386, according to documents submitted by Lauzen to the Executive Committee. Jeffers’ nomination for the post will go to the County Board for approval Wednesday.

Jeffers took the post amid a turbulent time. Many difficulties have stemmed from the Animal Control Department, an agency overseen by the Health Department.

County officials have worked to address administration problems at Animal Control since 2011, when former Animal Control Director Mary Lawrie resigned amid complaints about the department’s processes.

Since then, the county has struggled to find a director candidate willing to stay in the post.

Jeffers was selected by former County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay to temporarily replace Kuehnert. McConnaughay said in spring that she wanted to leave it to the next County Board to select a permanent replacement.

Jeffers’ name recently was inserted into a controversy surrounding a move by Lauzen to install Robert Sauceda of South Elgin – a man Lauzen has publicly identified as a friend and a political supporter – into the animal control director’s post.

The County Board rebuffed that appointment, and Lauzen since has indicated he could give Sauceda a temporary contract to act as a billing manager within animal control. Lauzen has defended his actions, in part, by insisting that the recommendation to hire Sauceda came from Jeffers.

Jeffers said she still believes the Animal Control Department needs to “get its billing in order,” and she confirmed intent to hire a temporary billing manager.

She said hiring an animal control director remains one of her top priorities. She is accepting applications for the job and expects to recommend a candidate to Lauzen.

Jeffers said the public should not expect any major changes in policy at the health department, and it will continue the mission of promoting health in the county by maintaining healthy drinking water and combating infectious disease, among others.

“Public health is a passion for me,” Jeffers said.

County Board members lauded Jeffers’ efforts as head of the department.

“Barb came out of the comfort zone of what she had been accustomed to for many years,” County Board member Melisa Taylor, R-Sugar Grove, said. “She has far exceeded the job requirements.”

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