Butler County Health Commissioner retiring, on leave until then

Board president praises Bailer’s efforts amid pandemic, pediatrician to be interim commissioner.

Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer is retiring Aug. 31, and in the meantime, will be on leave. The president of the board, which accepted her departure last week, praised her for hard work, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She retired, or resigned, whichever way you want to phrase it,” said Leon Simpson, the longtime board president.

Simpson said Bailer was on leave until her retirement date because, “She has done a marvelous job working for the department through all this COVID stuff. We decided it would be nice if she had some extra time to enjoy the chance to get out and do some things. That’s the only reason for that.”

“The board cannot say enough nice things about wishing her well in her endeavors,” Simpson said.

In May, Bailer and the county’s two other health commissioners — Kay Farrar in Hamilton and Jackie Phillips in Middletown — were honored for their hard work during the pandemic.

The pandemic “has taken such a toll and a drain on everybody,” Simpson said. “I don’t know how the health-care community has been able to sustain the level of service they’ve done.”

After the Thursday-evening meeting where her departure was discussed behind closed doors and later unanimously accepted when the health board returned to public session, Bailer sent an email to several people.

“I am retiring from my position at the Butler County General Health District, effective August 31,” she wrote. “My goal when I became health commissioner was to ensure that the district became nationally accredited. We recently received very high scores from the Public Health Accrediting Board and full accreditation will likely be announced shortly.”

Her email added: “My staff accomplished this while responding to a worldwide pandemic — no small feat. I am very proud of them! With that milestone achieved, the time is right for a new person at the helm. I am very much looking forward to pursuing new and different challenges, and spending more time with family and friends. I wish all the best to my staff and professional colleagues.”

The board has yet to determine how to go about the search. In the meantime, Dr. Michelle Burch, a pediatrician, will be the interim commissioner.

According to minutes from last week’s meeting, “Simpson stated that he will inquire with the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office regarding the termination of Ms. Bailer’s contract,” but Simpson said in an interview that is misleading.

He said he made the statement expressing the desire “only to review, to make sure that we had fulfilled any obligations that we had outstanding as far as our contractual stuff, such as vacations and so forth. It had nothing to do with anything else but that.”