The City of San Antonio will conduct a nationwide search to find a new director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District following Colleen Bridger’s appointment to an assistant city manager post on Tuesday.

Bridger, Metro Health’s director since 2017, was appointed by City Manager Erik Walsh in March to serve as interim assistant city manager overseeing the health department, Office of Equity, Department of Human Services, and the Parks and Recreation Department. She was given six months to determine whether she wanted to remain in the role permanently.

She made the decision to accept the role after four months on the job, saying she had seen the benefits of working across departments to achieve the City’s public health goals.

“Over the last couple months, I have had the opportunity to work on what I call ‘cross-cutting’ issues for the City, including domestic violence, mental health, migrant resources, trauma – those are all things that no one department owns,” Bridger said. “When I started approaching the job from that perspective, I started seeing the advantages to that and the work we can accomplish by coordinating and working together.”

The City is currently vetting recruitment firms to aid in finding a permanent replacement.

“We will sit down with [the firm] and define the qualities we are looking for in a Metro Health director and, come August, will begin accepting applications from candidates,” Bridger said.

Metro Health, a joint City and Bexar County public health agency with a total budget of $44 million, enforces local health codes, completes food safety inspections, provides immunizations and clinical services, and implements public health programs such as vaccination clinics in San Antonio and unincorporated areas of Bexar County. The department also works with the Texas Department of State Health Services to track infectious disease rates.

Jennifer Herriott, a 16-year veteran of Metro Health, is serving as interim director but, in a conversation with the Rivard Report in March, said she does not see herself as a permanent replacement at Metro Health should Bridger decide to remain as assistant city manager.

Bridger said that while Herriott “has an advantage [over other candidates] because she knows Metro Health,” she will have to apply for the position and compete with other national public health leaders should she wish to remain in the role.  

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.