first inoculation foxboro

First responders in Foxboro began receiving the Covid-19 vaccine this week. “These vaccinations will help our first responders remain ready to respond to our residents and community needs during the pandemic,” the police department said in a Facebook post. The post included a photo of Police Chief Micheal Grace receiving his inoculation noting, he “barely squinted during the shot.”

Refusing to compromise on professional qualifications in a hotly-competitive job market, town officials have managed to recruit a new director of public health in time to help administer the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to the general public.

Assistant Town Manager Michael Johns last week announced that Matthew Brennan, formerly an assistant in Weymouth’s health department, had accepted Foxboro’s job offer as the town’s top health official, effective Monday, Jan. 26.

He replaces outgoing public health Director Pauline Zajdel, whose retirement took effect Thanksgiving week.

Johns said Brennan has extensive experience in the public health realm and was highly recommended by former colleagues.

“I’m very confident that he will lead the health department and Foxboro public health at a very trying time during this pandemic and well beyond,” Johns told selectmen.

A registered sanitarian, Brennan had overseen inspection services, responded to environmental and school facility emergencies and assisted at flu clinics and health fairs during his eight years in Weymouth.

He is certified as a soil evaluator and food manager, and has been active in hazardous waste operations and emergency response. In addition, Brennan was elected as Norfolk County’s representative to the executive board of the Massachusetts Health Officers Association.

“We are very happy to be bringing on a new department head in a very important role at a critical time,” Johns said.

Brennan’s hire culminates an aggressive recruitment effort accelerated by Zajdel’s decision to move up her departure date, which originally had been scheduled for year’s end, to Thanksgiving week.

Absent a key leadership position in the midst of a pandemic, Town Manager William Keegan appointed Fire Chief Michael Kelleher and Deputy Chief Thomas Kenvin to interim roles as public health director and department manager, respectively, while continuing to search for a permanent replacement.

With time of the essence, some elected officials had counseled hiring an under-qualified applicant with the caveat that he or she be allowed to obtain all necessary certifications within a year.

But Johns and Keegan stuck to their guns — especially that the town’s new health director be a registered sanitarian — and ultimately were able to recruit Brennan.

Once Brennan is on the job, Kelleher and Kenvin will relinquish their interim duties, Johns said.

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