ELYRIA — Ken Pearce, the longtime commissioner of the Lorain County General Health District, quietly retired Aug. 31.
But Pearce, who spent 37 years with the health district, about 30 of which were at the helm of the agency, may soon return to his old job.
He acknowledged that the county Board of Health is weighing whether to offer him a temporary contract to lead the agency again while the search for a permanent successor is under way.
“I told the board I would do whatever they want me to do,” Pearce said. “I was so invested in that organization for so many years I certainly would want to provide transition services.”
The board plans to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to offer Pearce a new contract, which according to the minutes of the Aug. 15 board meeting would go into effect Oct. 31 and last until a new health commissioner is selected.
Pearce, 61, said that changes to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, including a new provision that bars automatic cost of living increases for new retirees, spurred his decision to retire when he did.
He said he is somewhat leery about returning because in addition to collecting his retirement pay, he also would be paid a salary. Pearce was the highest-paid county employee in 2011, earning $139,681.73 last year.
“The double-dipping kind of thing is rather uncomfortable,” Pearce said. “I’m just not interested in anything that would create a controversy for the board.”
Even if he does return to his former position, Pearce is barred from doing so by retirement rules until he’s been off the job for 60 days.
Health board member Patricia Schrull has been named acting health commissioner and is being paid $500 for 10 hours of work each week, according to Aug. 15 meeting minutes. She receives an additional $50 per hour beyond that.
At the same meeting, the board voted to create the position of a full-time deputy health commissioner.
Board President Edward von Hofen said a search committee has been formed to find a new health commissioner and the position is being advertised.
A job posting on the National Association of County and City Health Officials website said the job pays between $92,280 and $115,350 per year.
Board member Vivian McCullough, who also is Schrull’s aunt, said she would have preferred for Pearce to remain on the job.
“I don’t want to see Ken go,” she said.
Von Hofen said while he appreciates Pearce’s years of service, it might be time to bring in someone with “new thoughts, new talents” to lead the health district into the future.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.