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The screening process began last week for two soon-to-be-vacant county department head positions.

Committees checking out candidates for public health director and Mount View Health Facility administrator started their work with some initial interviews.

Robert F. Harrington, the outgoing administrator of the county-owned nursing home, said the Mount View search committee interviewed three candidates Tuesday and three more Thursday. All six are from Western New York.

"I think we have a consensus that three of the six are stronger," Harrington said. "Bruce (R. Fenwick, county human resources director) is working the civil service process, because it's going to be by training and experience, not an exam, and we hope our favored people are reachable."

By that, Harrington meant scoring on the top three on the civil service scale, which is the threshold for hiring eligibility. Fenwick said county Personnel Officer Harvey N. Albond is actually working out the scoring of the candidates' resumes.

The names of the candidates have not been released, but Harrington said, "We're only talking to practicing administrators."

A second round of interviews with the candidates eligible for hiring is expected to be held in late July. Fenwick said some had been asked by Albond to provide further background material about themselves, in addition to that required on the civil service application.

The search committee includes four Mount View employees, Deputy Social Services Commissioner Sharon Sloma and two county legislators, Shirley G. Urtel, R-Cambria, and John W. Cole III, D-Lockport. It will recommend a candidate, who would have to be approved by the Legislature's Health Services Committee and the full Legislature.

Harrington, 55, has been at the Mount View helm for 10 years and plans to retire to Maine in mid-November.

Meanwhile, a three-member Board of Health screening committee started working on the field of nine candidates to succeed Shirley A. Sampson as public health director, the official who heads the county Health Department.

Sampson's appointment expires Nov. 13, but she expects her last day will be sometime in late October. Sampson was planning to retire then anyway, after several years as deputy director, but last year she was appointed director for one year after the surprise resignation of David E. Wertman.

"We're trying to get somebody in position by the end of October," said Jean Wactawski-Wende, chairwoman of the search committee. The Board of Health chooses the director, but the County Legislature sets the salary.

Last week, the search panel conferred by speakerphone with the five out-of-state candidates for the post. "I would anticipate we would be inviting the majority of them for an interview," said Wactawski-Wende, a North Tonawanda epidemiologist.

"It's up to them if they want to come," she said. "The county has no money to pay for out-of-town candidates to come in."

Those willing to travel here at their own expense will join the four Western New York candidates for in-person interviews Aug. 9 and 10.

The post is exempt from civil service regulations.

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