Marion hires new health agent amidst pandemic

May 22, 2020

MARION — Hired on May 21, the town’s new Health Agent, David Flaherty, is ready to hit the ground rolling amid a coronavirus pandemic. 

Flaherty has 18 years of public health experience and has been working with the town as a consultant since Health Director Karen Walega retired after 31.5 years in the role. Like Walega, he would love to stay in Marion until he retires. 

The other candidate, Anna McEntree has a background in environmental assessment, pool and restaurant inspection, and sanitization. 

Flaherty has served as both a health inspector and health agent in a number of towns: he worked in Wareham for four years from 2009 to 2013 as its health agent, and had a stint as town administrator in Raynham from 2017 to April 2019.

However, he said he realized public health was where he could do the most good. 

“I love public health. There's something new every day, a different challenge,” and he loves helping individuals and businesses achieve their goals, he said.

In a video interview with the Board of Health and Town Administrator Jay McGrail, Flaherty said he is “one of those people who does best working under duress.” He feels he has the training to be able to handle anything the pandemic throws at him.  

He is drawn to Marion because he knows the town well from working in Wareham. 

Asked about non-compliance, he said some of the hardest situations he has dealt with have to do with hoarding. 

To solve the problem, he said he usually tries to muster hoarders’ empathy for first responders who might someday have to access a cluttered house if the hoarder got hurt.  

“You’re not going to get 100% compliance immediately,” Flaherty said. “You have to keep going back, baby steps, sometimes you take a step back. It helps if you get family members involved as well.” 

In working with older residents, Flaherty has experience reaching out individually to people on a “frail elders list” to check in. He has presented short talks on public health topics to senior citizens.

Since the role is part-time, Flaherty would spend his other hours self-employed as an environmental engineer, a job which offers him a lot of scheduling flexibility.

Following the interviews, the board and McGrail deliberated on who should get the job.

Both McGrail and board Clerk Dot Brown were torn between the two candidates because of their likable personalities and willingness to start immediately. 

In the end, they chose Flaherty because of his experience in other towns which would benefit Marion in the short-term while dealing with the pandemic.

Board Chairperson Dr. John Howard said Flaherty “seems like he understands the whole situation.”