‘Grateful’ for leading: Health officials, community leaders praise Schuyler
The tears were genuine Monday as members of the Chautauqua County Board of Health and even some community leaders said goodbye to Christine Schuyler.
“Those of us on the Board of Health can definitely say that we are grateful for the outstanding work of our director, Christine Schuyler. Many individuals and organizations in Chautauqua County have relied on Christine’s professionalism and support during her 14 plus years as director of Health and Human Services,” shared Dr. Lillian Ney, Board of Health president at the board’s meeting Monday.
Schuyler’s tenure came to an end this week as County Executive PJ Wendel chose not to reappoint Schuyler to the position.
There were no elected officials at the board meeting, but there were additional community leaders who were in attendance, including Forestville School Superintendent John O’Connor and Silver Creek School Superintendent Todd Crandall.
During the pandemic O’Connor was working for BOCES in an administrative role for multiple schools in Western New York. He noted how Schuyler helped develop a testing system for students and staff, allowing them to stay in school if they tested negative. “As part of BOCES I had to work with Erie County people and Chautauqua County people. The solutions Christine had were just tops,” he said.
County Physician Dr. Robert Berke had previously served as the county’s health director and had recommended Schuyler to former County Executive Greg Edwards for the position. “You lived up to the expectations and exceeded them. It makes me very happy to know that you were leading this department,” he said to Schuyler.
Health Board member Mark Tarbrake worked with Schuyler during his 10 years serving as a Republican legislator. “We worked in this very room on a lot of legislation and if wasn’t for Christine, we never would have gotten it through. She was always organized, always had her ducks in a row and she had a phenomenal team that she brought in,” he said.
Tarbrake praised her effort in helping develop the welfare-to-work program, as well as raising the smoking age to 21. “She’s really helped this county and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done,” he said.
Health Board member Dr. Elizabeth Kidder noted how difficult it was for health leaders when COVID-19 first hit. “I remember thinking to myself multiple times throughout the pandemic, ‘I think Christine has the most challenging job in the county,'” she said.
Schuyler thanked everyone for their comments. “I’m proud of all the work this department has done and will continue to do as it moves forward,” she said.
With Schuyler’s departure, Wendel has assigned DHHS Physician Michael Faulk additional duties to act as Interim Public Health Director overseeing the DHHS Division of Public Health. Deputy Commissioner of Social Services Jon Anderson will serve on an interim basis as Acting Social Services Commissioner overseeing DHHS’s five social services divisions. The county executive said previously he expects to announce the reorganization of the county’s human services departments by early next year.