Dr. Michelle Taylor confirmed as Shelby County’s new health department director

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Commission voted 13-0 to confirm Dr. Michelle Taylor as the county’s new health director on Monday, following a controversial nomination.

“I’m going to do my level best to prove you every day why you made that unanimous vote,” Taylor told commissioners to applause after the vote.

The positive vote came amid tension over what some call lies by the mayor and a leaked memo that showed an interview panel did not recommend Taylor, or another candidate, for the job.

“My concern isn’t with Dr. Taylor, but they’re honestly just about the honesty and transparency of the mayor,” County Commissioner Mark Billingsly said before the vote Monday.

But by the time the commission voted in the afternoon, Billingsley addressed Taylor, telling her that he would support her nomination. He apologized to Taylor and said his issue was not with her ability, but with a statement made by County Mayor Lee Harris.

“I want to personally apologize to you for any heartache you’ve had over the last week or so,” the commissioner told Taylor.

Taylor’s tentative start date is Aug. 2.

A graduate of White Station High School in Memphis, Taylor has an extensive educational background having studied at Howard University, the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University.

She has also previously worked with the Shelby County Health Department as the associate medical director and deputy administrator for the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Emergency Preparedness
Program.

She’s also a member of the Air National Guard, has a background as a teacher in Memphis and a doctor practicing pediatric medicine in Memphis.

“I hope everybody in the community whether you agree with my nomination and confirmation will be willing to support the hardworking employees of the Shelby County Health Department. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please go get vaccinated. That’s the message I want to send tonight,” Taylor said Monday.

The honesty and transparency regarding Harris’ decision to nominate Dr. Taylor took center stage during WREG’s Live at 9. With Commissioners Billingsly, Van Turner and Amber Mills in attendance.

Last week, a memo surfaced revealing that an interview panel did not recommend either of the top two candidates for the health director’s position. Instead, Mayor Harris told the commissioners on Wednesday that the panel had chosen Dr. Taylor as the “strongest candidate.”

“As qualified as she is and all of her credentials and her phenomenal resume, I for one cannot get past that the mayor lied about the panel,” Mills said.

But Turner said if commissioners have a beef with the mayor, that should be separate from Turner’s vote.

“I was on the panel, and I can tell you she was the best candidate for this position,” Turner said.

The previous health department director, Alisa Haushalter, resigned earlier this year after criticism from state health officials over the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

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