Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, has resigned, effective Aug. 11. In a statement, Fleming, 60, said his “personal plans and needs” don’t allow him to make the long-term leadership commitment the agency now requires.
Fleming, who has led Public Health for seven years, recently endured severe budget cuts, which may force the agency to cut staff and close several clinics. Final decisions will come later this year, as the King County Council approves a budget.
“As a department, we’re going through an enormous transformation in response to budget challenges and changing needs,” he said. “My highest priority is that the department has the long-term, stable leadership that is needed to implement and see these changes through.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine noted Fleming’s accomplishments, including having led the department in its effort to sign up more than 165,000 King County residents for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a focus on youth obesity that resulted in a 17-percent drop in obesity rates in participating schools, and other accomplishments.
Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said they would begin the search for a new director immediately for the joint Seattle and King County agency. Constantine appointed Patty Hayes, director of the community health services division, to serve as interim director. Fleming will stay on in the interim as county health officer, a post that has important statutory powers in emergency situations.