Dixon Out as Allegheny County Health Director

Deanna Garcia March 7, 2012

The Allegheny County Board of Health has voted to oust County Health Director Bruce Dixon after 20 years on the job.  The decision came after a meeting at which more than a dozen people testified in support of Dixon.  The board went into executive session for a couple of hours to discuss the matter.

“We deliberated and felt that this was a move, that this change was in the best interest of the county,” said Lee Harrison, chair of the board. 

When asked if the board spoke with County Executive Rich Fitzgerald during their executive session, Harrison wouldn’t give a clear answer.  But, he said, most people know where Fitzgerald stands.

“He’s made no bones about what he’d like to see happen,” said Harrison, “but what I can tell you is that the board deliberated very carefully and discussed the substantive issues of what we felt was best for the citizens of the county, so I can assure you that political pressure was not the reason for this decision.”

Shortly after the vote, Fitzgerald released the following statement:

“I appreciate Dr. Dixon’s 20 years of service to the residents of Allegheny County. He has brought the Allegheny County Health Department to where it stands today, and I thank him for the time and dedication it took to do that. It is now time to take the department in a new direction and to ensure that our public health, air quality, food safety and other critical services are among the best in the nation.”

While many at the meeting were disappointed by the decision, some applauded the move.  Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, or PennFuture, called for Dixon’s resignation a year ago, and are happy with the board’s decision. 

“He [Dixon] was quoted last year as saying ‘we could have the air quality of Montana if we didn’t care about jobs,’ and that is a really toxic mind set for Allegheny County.  We do have an air quality problem here, we’ve come so far, we still have a ways to go and clean air needs to be part of the jobs discussion here,” said Penn Future’s Tiffany Hickman.

Board Chair Harrison thanked Dixon for his 20 years of service, and said the members of the board of health will work to ensure a smooth transition into a new director.  Dixon’s termination of service will be effective in 90 days.

Dixon did not attend the meeting.