Category Archives: President’s Column

Transformational Leader and Health Director Damon Chaplin Shares How He Motivates His Staff and Gives Advice on Being a Better Leader

By George T. Roberts, Jr., MHA, FACHE, NACCHO President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northeast Texas Public Health District

Damon Chaplin, MBA, serves as the Health Director of the City of New Bedford Health Department in Massachusetts and is a current NACCHO Board Member. He has previously provided statewide leadership as a Regional Director for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Mr. Chaplin has lead school inspection indoor air quality trainings for environmental health professionals at the Boston Public Health Commission. As a local business owner, Mr. Chaplin integrates his knowledge of strategic financial analysis into his department’s operations to ensure its financial stability.

Under his direction, the City of New Bedford Health Department successfully provides programs and services to residents in the areas of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; environmental health; public health nursing; and other health and wellness programs. Mr. Chaplin is currently leading his department’s efforts in becoming nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board. Below, he shares how he keeps his staff motivated and provides some advice on how to become a better transformational leader.

As the leader of a local public health department, what are you doing to ensure the growth of your organization and the health of your community?

Transformational leadership relies on two main principles—communication and influence. It’s no secret that most effective leaders are also effective communicators, but today’s public health leaders are also faced with being effective motivators. Many of our public health challenges reach far beyond our municipal boarders and organizational framework, and as a result, require the development of data driven systems which support inter-agency and cross jurisdictional sharing of resources, financing, and best practices.

In New Bedford, we are focused on developing systems, which support quality improvement, cross-sector collaboration and social innovation. We accomplish this through strategic planning, community partnerships, and neighborhood engagement. We’re currently in the process of applying for national public health accreditation with the Public Health Accreditation Board.

In addition, we recently began developing an internship program with local colleges and universities to support our work force development initiatives, special projects, and programs. This program has resulted in the development of regional profiles of municipal partners, evaluation of school based surveys, and support for regional code enforcement activities.

What are some characteristics you think every leader should have?

I believe every leader should possess a vision, passion, and perseverance. Leaders are born and blessed.  They are born with the vision of what could be and blessed with the desire to fulfill that vision. Leaders are often restless and seldom settle for the status quo. They are life learners and are often looking for opportunities to improve what has already been done or to do something that has never been done. Leaders often ask the question, “Why not?” and seldom settle for less. But today’s public health leader must also remember to include marginalized communities and individuals in the planning and decision making processes associated with protecting the public’s health.

What is one way you boost the morale of your organization and keep your employees inspired?

I try to employ different ways of boosting the morale of my department but my primary tactic is by helping staff and managers identify problems and remove barriers to peak performance. I found that this method has been very effective.

What advice can you provide to someone looking to become a better transformational leader?

There are quite a few ways one can become a better transformational leader. I believe it’s important to understand your leadership style and play to your strengths. One should always be able to learn from their mistakes and be willing to apply those lessons at the very next opportunity. A good leader doesn’t wait for change, but rather is the catalyst for change. Sometimes failure happens, but good leaders shouldn’t be afraid to fail. It’s imperative that those in leadership positions remain focused, identify their strengths and weaknesses, surround themselves with good people, and build healthy communities from the inside-out.

To share your story of transformational leadership or to recommend a leader to be highlighted, please contact Taylarr Lopez, NACCHO Communications Specialist, at    


Transformational Leaders Inspire Communities at the Local Level to Improve Population Health

By George T. Roberts, Jr., MHA, FACHE, NACCHO President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northeast Texas Public Health District

I’m thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to serve as President of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) this year. For 25 years, NACCHO has served as the voice of local public health and NACCHO stands ready to help local public health professionals and their partners serve their communities. I see public health professionals as important transformational leaders as we unite our communities, address critical health issues, and work to improve population health. Continue reading

Final Reflections: Outgoing NACCHO President Kevin Sumner Reflects on His Term and Hopes for the Future

Interview by Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

Let me preface this conversation by mentioning how hard it was to gather these reflections. It’s not that this past year has been so difficult—quite the contrary because it has been so rewarding, and busy— but because the end of the year is bittersweet. In many ways, the energy and passion of NACCHO, its members, its staff, its Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman, and the public health workforce in general, has provided a source of fuel to keep me engaged with and motivated about public health.

Firstly, I want to thank the NACCHO staff that are so dedicated and talented and keep the NACCHO operation in motion. The staff has worked hard to support my efforts over the past year. I am grateful to the Board of Directors whose visions and thoughts guide the NACCHO operation and assure that we are working for all the local health departments across the country. Finally, I’d like to thank the Officers: Dr. Umair Shah, Past-President, Jennifer Kertanis, President-Elect; and George Roberts, NACCHO’s incoming President. Continue reading

On the Front Lines of the Opioid Epidemic

By Kevin G. Sumner, MPH, NACCHO President and Health Officer and Director of the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission in Green Brook, New Jersey

The opioid epidemic has claimed thousands of lives and engulfed entire communities, yet often feels too monumental to be seen as anything other than relentless and unending. But with as many harrowing stories that we have read and heard in regards to this profound public health crisis, there are also glimpses of hope: what’s working, the moderately sized successes that might work on a larger scale, and what adequately funded interventions look like. Continue reading

Using Data to Improve Local Public Health Practice

By Kevin G. Sumner, MPH, NACCHO President and Health Officer and Director of the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission in Green Brook, New Jersey

Data and research help us to understand our world and make informed decisions. As local health officials, data allow us to measure progress over time, identify emerging trends, and understand how our jurisdictions compare to others in a variety of different ways. Data inform much of our community health improvement planning; they lend credibility to our policy positions and support our funding requests. They also provide a common language as we work with our partners across sectors to address the social determinants of health, helping us to communicate and form a shared understanding of the issues we face. Continue reading

NACCHO, ASTHO, and the Surgeon General: Partnering to Build Healthier, More Resilient Communities

By Kevin G. Sumner, MPH, NACCHO President and Health Officer and Director of the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission in Green Brook, New Jersey

This year, NACCHO is collaborating with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General on the ASTHO President’s Challenge. ASTHO President Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, and I have united to call on state, territorial, local, and tribal health officials to build healthier, more resilient communities by supporting investments in community-led, place-based approaches. The challenge has two specific goals: (1) equipping health officials to mobilize community-led, place-based collectives focused on measurable outcomes to build stronger communities; and (2) connecting public health officials, and their communities, to business leaders and policymakers who want to invest in these community-led, place-based approaches and advance economic development by reaching across sectors. Continue reading

New NACCHO President Kevin Sumner Discusses His Priorities for NACCHO and Shares How He Uses Collaboration and Communication to Gain Support for Local Public Health

Interview by Lindsay Tiffany, Director of Publications, NACCHO

On July 1, Kevin G. Sumner, MPH, Health Officer and Director of the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission in Green Brook, NJ, became NACCHO’s President. Sumner is a long-time, dedicated member of NACCHO and has served on a variety of advisory groups including the Membership Committee, the Performance Improvement Workgroup, the Finance Committee, and the Public Health Communications Workgroup. He has served on NACCHO’s Board of Directors since 2012. He recently spoke to NACCHO Voice about his career path, the challenges that keep him up at night, and how he helped to successfully advocate to get $10 million for local health department lead activities incorporated into the state budget. Continue reading