LAURINBURG — Before convening to make the formal appointment on Tuesday, members of the Scotland County Board of Public Health joked that a quorum of the health department’s staff had come to meet their new health director.
Fortunately for them, the board adjourned within five minutes of the unanimous selection of Bengie Hair.
Hair comes to Scotland County with more than 20 years of work under his belt in the private sector and in public health on both the state and federal levels. He most recently spent two years as a public health administrator and health educator at the Moore County Health Department.
He will begin Aug. 3.
A native of Fayetteville, Hair holds a bachelor’s degree from The American University School of Government and Public Administration and studied health care management on the graduate level at Duke University.
“I did public health work in a region of North Carolina back in the late 80s and early 90s and Scotland was one of my counties,” he said. “I’ve done work in this county over a period of, off and on, 15 years, and so I know the county very well.
“I saw this as an opportunity that maybe would work for myself and would work also for the community. I have a lot of experience in public health for a long time, and there’s nothing over those years I didn’t like about Scotland County.”
Hair replaces David Jenkins, who left the department for Carteret County in February after starting in August 2013. Wayne Raynor has served as interim health director since Jenkins’ departure.
“We certainly appreciate Mr. Raynor; he’s like a member of the family,” said health board chairman Bob Davis, who added that Hair’s lengthy tenure and diverse background in public health set him apart from other applicants.
“His age was a factor; hopefully he wasn’t using Scotland County as a stepping stone.”
Hair’s experiences also include seven years as manager of the palliative care unit at Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, South Carolina and nearly five years with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a project officer and Health Resources and Services Administration branch chief.
“Public health is often taking a backseat, even though it’s a safety net process for our communities,” he said. “Having worked at the federal level and seeing health departments at the local level not be really counted in the whole scheme of health changes, I think that we have a day of arguing our position for what health departments do and how they benefit the community.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.