Tammy Spencer is Southwick’s new health director

Tammy Spencer, at right, Southwick’s new health director, answers questions from the Board of Health during her Dec. 3 interview. (Photo by Hope E. Tremblay)

SOUTHWICK – Tammy Spencer is the town’s new health director.

Spencer signed a contract with the Southwick Board of Health last week and will begin in January. Current Health Director Thomas Fitzgerald is retiring and will help Spencer make the transition.

Spencer, currently a sanitation agent in Chicopee, is no stranger to Southwick’s public health needs. Spencer was an intern for the board as a college student and said in her interview on Dec. 3 that she looked forward to returning to the town and believes she has come full circle in many ways.

“I’d be really excited to come back after starting here 14 years ago,” Spencer said in her interview.

Spencer was selected from among three candidates following public interviews earlier this month. Board of Health Chair Dr. Jerome Azia said all three candidates were “well qualified.”

“We could have selected any one of them – they were all good candidates,” Azia said.

Spencer, however, stood out just a little more because of her experience in town and her response to a question about where she sees herself in five years, Azia said. Spencer responded she would like to be Southwick’s health director.

Spencer fielded questions about her emergency preparedness experience, what skills she brings to the position and what she likes most and least about working in public health.

Spencer said it’s the people that she enjoys most.

“I really like working with people and helping solve their problems,” she said, noting that what she likes least is “people utilizing the health department for their own agenda, such as retaliation against a neighbor.”

Following her Southwick internship, Spencer spent time working in Arizona and returned home to Western Massachusetts. She said her skillset includes 13 years working as a sanitation agent, food inspector, as well as writing city health ordinances, budgeting, enforcing tobacco regulations, livestock and emergency preparedness, among others.

“One of the skills I’ve developed is establishing relationships with people,” Spencer added. “People trust that I will help them, not penalize them.”

When asked how she handled conflicts with colleagues, Spencer said she is lucky that she has rarely had any issues, and in Chicopee, the health staff just wants to do their job.

“And, not a lot upsets me,” she said.

Spencer said she is as comfortable being out in the field on an inspection as she is in the office and told board members that she didn’t envision becoming a health agent, but once she learned more about it, she knew this was her career path.

“I didn’t know how much I’d like it,” she said.


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