Where Are They Now: Lyon named to lead Erie County Health Department

March 16th, 2014 by bobebill

The new director of the Erie County Department of Health grew passionate about public health while securing clean drinking water for villagers of the west African country of Cameroon.

Melissa Lyon, 40, served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps for two years. It showed her that a person didn’t have to think big to make an impact on other people’s health.

“I learned that small interactions, like doing immunizations and getting people access to clean water and healthy foods, can make such significant impact,” Lyon said.

Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper announced Lyon’s appointment Thursday. She succeeds Andy Glass, who left the county Health Department in January to become director of administration for the Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas.

Lyon, who will start work in late March, has spent the past two-and-a-half years as site manager for Great Lakes Medical Research in Westfield, N.Y. She supervised staff, negotiated budgets and contracts, maintained regulatory documentation and developed annual budgets.

“Melissa is an excellent choice to run the Health Department,” said Donald Brautigam, M.D., Great Lakes’ chief executive. “She’s an excellent manager. She is committed and passionate in what she does. She has excellent people skills and is able to motivate them to get the best out of them.”

Lyon also has nine years of experience with the Chautauqua County Department of Health, where she started inspecting food establishments and ended up supervising the department’s health education division.

“I see many similarities between the Erie County Department of Health and the Chautauqua County Health Department,” Lyon said. “Their programs are structured the same. I understand how they do things.”

Lyon will oversee a department that has been downsized several times over the past nine years as budget cuts have taken their toll. Future job cuts will be up to Dahlkemper and Erie County Council, but Lyon said reducing staff is not her plan.

“I’m not the kind of person who comes in and thinks cutting services and personnel is a good idea,” Lyon said.

Lyon lives in Sherman, N.Y., with her husband and two stepsons. She serves on the Sherman Central School Board.

DAVID BRUCE can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNbruce.

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