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New Gallatin City-County Health Officer approved, replacing Matt Kelley

Posted at 11:26 AM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 13:26:32-04

BOZEMAN — Her title has gone from “expected” to “official.”

The new Gallatin City-County Health Officer, Lori Christenson, has been approved by both the Gallatin County and Bozeman City Commission.

It was in the same Community Room of the Gallatin County Building more than a year ago, March 2020, when now former-Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley first told everybody that Gallatin County not only had COVID-19 but we were the first in the state to have a case confirmed.

And now, starting with the county commission approval Tuesday morning, the county has a new health officer.

“I would be not truthful if I did not say that I’m a little bit nervous,” Christenson says.

Lori Christenson.jpg

This time, Kelley wasn’t present and Lori Christenson was stepping into his shoes.

“You take opportunities as they arise and as you can see when you can serve the community in a different way,” Christenson says.

Talking with MTN’s Cody Boyer moments after county commissioners approved her appointment, Christenson says there’s a lot to work on but even more to work with.

“The example that the county commission gave today in terms of finding opportunities to partner as we work through the interlocal agreement, I think that’s excellent to really establish a relationship,” Christenson says.

“Perhaps it would be in the public’s interest if you would wait a week,” says one Gallatin County resident, who referred to a time where he had difficulty with the Department of Environmental Health. “I know you’ve interviewed the candidates for this job but I don’t know if you’ve interviewed anybody who has used the system.”

But one other, Sean O’Callaghan, Gallatin County Planning Director, spoke about years of working with Christenson.

“I’ve worked closely with Lori over the years and I’ve found her to be a great partner, I’ve found her to be a good leader,” O’Callaghan says. “I’ve found her to operate with integrity.”

As for Christenson - she says the challenges are not unknown to her, from what the pandemic has taught us to ever-ballooning growth.

“There’s House Bill 257 as well as House Bill 121, and also, too, we still have COVID-19 cases and so we are still in a pandemic and we are still gliding out of that,” Christenson says.

And change, she says, is not just an expectation; it’s part of her plan.

“Knowing that there are a lot more needs out there that we haven’t fully addressed or don’t fully understand, we are in a position to make great change and I am looking forward to it,” Christenson says.

Christenson says moving forward, if anyone has any concerns or questions for her, they can contact her directly at the health department.