PITTSFIELD — The Board of Health meeting Wednesday night started and ended with resignations: At the top of the meeting was the resignation of Public Health Director Gina Armstrong and at the end was Board of Health Chairman Dr. Alan Kulberg.
Armstrong said that her last day as director will be Sept. 10 and Kulberg will be leaving his role as chair immediately. The board voted unanimously to have Senior Sanitarian Andy Cambi step into the role of the Interim Public Health Director on Sept. 11.
The duo was an integral part of the city’s coronavirus response and often the public faces of the local fight against the pandemic.
As the head of the public health department, Armstrong kept the community and city committees and boards informed with regular coronavirus updates. And members of the city’s Coronavirus Task Force — where Kulberg served as medical advisor until stepping down in February — said the doctor’s guidance was an integral piece of creating COVID-safe staffing plans to keep city business running smoothly during the pandemic.
“His level of commitment during COVID was unprecedented,” Armstrong said of Kulberg. “We never thought we’d need so much from a Board of Health Chair and [he] was there to guide us through it.”
Kulberg had glowing reviews Armstrong’s impact in return.
“I can’t say enough about how effectively this department has run under here leadership,” Kulberg said.
But the last 18 months have taken their toll on the pair.
Armstrong has led the city’s health department since 2013 but she said over the last couple months she’d began thinking about leaving the role. She told the board that she was “at a time where I need balance with my family life.”
“It’s really hard,” Armstrong told the board. “I love the work that I do and each of you as my colleagues...I love the work we do here in public health.”
Kulberg retired from pediatrics in 2017 but stepped back into public health in early 2020 when he said he “kind of self-recruited myself into the COVID outbreak” response.
“Last year was a pretty unique year for the health department and we were going in fifth gear 9 or 10 hours a day for the whole year,” Kulberg said. “Going through that also influenced my desire to resign.”
When he left the Coronavirus Task Force in February he said he was “re-retiring” but on Wednesday night he made it official.
“I just want to be retired, I want to be fully retired and not dealing with all the issues on a day to day basis,” Kulberg said. “It’s just time for me to move on and let somebody else take the reins.”
“I’m happy to have served,” he added.
Board members applauded both Armstrong and Kulberg at the close of their final meeting. Board member Brad Gordon said both Armstrong and Kulberg had been great motivators that have made the members “step up their game.”
Kulberg said that a former Board of Health member has stepped forward and is working with the city to fill the existing vacant seat on the board but that no one has been selected to fill his role as the physician member of the board.