PITTSFIELD -- The city Board of Health has hired a new health director to replace Merridith A. O'Leary, who stepped down in August to accept a similar position in Northampton.

Board Chairwoman Roberta "Bobbi" Orsi said Gina Armstrong, now deputy director of the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium in Hudson, N.Y., has accepted the $54,400 position and is expected to start her new job here in early January.

"All of the candidates came in very strong. Quite honestly, any of them could have led the department," Orsi said. "We chose the candidate with the best leadership, knowledge and experience, and a personality that matched our community."

The health director is responsible for managing the Pittsfield Health Department duties, including inspections of restaurants, lodging facilities and septic systems. Health officials investigate food and waterborne illnesses and nuisances such as illegal curbside trash, and promote wellness through a variety of programs such as tobacco awareness and healthy housing.

She said Armstrong "has great experience in leading multiple efforts in the health and prevention world. She has grant-writing experience. She demonstrated a lot of leadership and management skills. She really seemed to offer us the most well-rounded package."

Armstrong was chosen by the board on Dec. 12 from among four finalists for the director's job. There originally were 12 applicants.

Contacted Wednesday, Armstrong said, "I'm really excited to get to know the officials I will be working with and collaborating on in different programs."

She lives in Niverville, N.Y., and is a Colombia County, N.Y., native. She has worked at the Hudson, N.Y.-based health organization since 2000.

Armstrong said she began working at Healthcare Consortium as a health educator and has worked on various health services and education programs.

"I also went to school in the Berkshires," she said, mentioning Berkshire School in Sheffield.

Armstrong holds a bachelor of science degree in public health from Arizona State University, graduating in 1987, and she is pursuing a master's degree in public health.

Some of the duties of the Pittsfield position are familiar to her, Armstrong said, including programs promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing and dealing with chronic diseases.