West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson will be retiring, select board chair Cynthia Mitchell revealed during a Wednesday, Jan. 11, select board meeting.
Johnson has been with the town for, as he describes it, “six wonderful years.” Three of those years were during the height of the COVID pandemic, when health agents and health institutions collaborated to make testing sites and care for the people.
“Omar was ever-present, made it all work, not to mention the duties that he has as health agent here working for the town,” Mitchell said. She extended her thanks to Johnson for his “amazing work and leadership during that time.”
“It wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t have a great team. It was a great team effort,” Johnson said. He explained that he is leaving the Island for personal reasons, but if he could he would stay. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and I will be back to visit,” Johnson said.
While the experience was “trying at times,” Johnson added, “that’s what makes you grow as a person.” Other West Tisbury officials also expressed their appreciation for Johnson during the meeting.
In a phone call with The Times, Johnson added a few more details about his retirement from West Tisbury. “It’s been a wonderful experience working here on Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. “I commend the health agents working as a team during some trying times, especially during COVID.” Johnson said the staff at West Tisbury town hall “has been some of the best group of people” he ever worked with. “I leave the Island with lots of good experiences and good people,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s last day as the town’s health agent was on Friday, Jan. 13. Johnson told The Times he is going back to his home state of Connecticut, and will continue working in public health. The West Tisbury board of health will discuss “hiring decisions for the lead health agent position” during its Tuesday, Jan. 17, meeting.
On a similar note, the board unanimously approved board of health chair Timothy Barnett’s resignation. “I have been a board member for 21 years, and feel it is time for someone new to come on board,” Barnett wrote in his resignation letter.
The select board and board of health will need to decide how to approach the missing seat as the election season approaches. The select board unanimously approved West Tisbury emergency management director Russell Hartenstine’s budget, which saw a change to the stipend increase request for assistant emergency director Jennelle Gadowski from $7,000 to $13,000 a year rather than $15,000.
The Vineyard Transit Authority installation of electric bus equipment near West Tisbury town hall will begin on Monday, Jan. 23.
A brief discussion about the warrant article for the upcoming spring town meeting occurred. West Tisbury town administrator Jen Rand said while more warrant articles will be coming in, one that cannot go forward is the consideration for removing the requirement to have a lawyer on the historic district commission. According to Rand, this is because the state legislature requires towns to at least try to find one for the commission.