Following the retirement of its longtime health officer Nancy Kreuser, the city of Wauwatosa has hired someone to fill her shoes.
And the successor, who promises innovative thinking and more community outreach, has been in training for some time.
Laura Conklin, who described public health as one of her passions, has officially been on the job since she was appointed July 19 during a common council meeting. However, she's worked for the city's health department for about a year, previously as a public health manager.
When Kreuser — who held the position for more than 20 years — announced she'd be retiring soon, Conklin stepped up. She received training from Kreuser for about eight months and learned the inner workings of the department before she was named interim health director in February, when Kreuser stepped down.
Even though she was well-versed in the position, Conklin still had to undergo a rigorous interview process against other candidates in order to fill the vacancy, said City Administrator Jim Archambo.
"We went through this recruitment with a national search," Archambo said. "Even though (public health) is not a large field, there was a very strong candidate pool. She won out among very good competition."
One facet that made Conklin stand out in the candidate pool was her forward-thinking mindset, Archambo said.
"She's looking way ahead," he said. "She's anticipating what public health is going to look like in five, 10 years. She plans around that."
Just a few weeks into the new job, Conklin said things "are going really well."
Conklin earned a bachelor's degree from Carroll University and a masters in public mealth from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2012. She previously worked as a health educator and project director for the Rock County Health Department for three years.
As health officer, Conklin will oversee the department, situated inside city hall, 7725 W. North Ave. The 13-member Wauwatosa Health Department offers environmental health support, educational and outreach services, city and state-licensed establishment inspections and prevention efforts, among many more services.
Conklin said the city of Wauwatosa "does a fantastic job" of funding its health department and, historically, it's received great support from city administration and leadership. She said that nationally, health departments are dealing with smaller and smaller budgets, which is incentive to get the most "bang for the buck."
In her new job, Conklin said she hopes to continue community partnerships with organizations like area hospitals, which play a key role in the success of the city's health department. Plus, she wants the department to become more visible in the community.
"A lot of people don't know what what we do," she said, adding the department launched on social media platforms in November.
You can find the Wauwatosa Health Department on Facebook by searching "Healthy Wauwatosa."