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Ada County Commissioners confirm their recommendation of Labrador to health board over epidemiologist

Two of the commissioners voted to keep their recommendation, saying Labrador has the political experience for the position and Dr. Blue is overly qualified.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's Note: The live stream of the board meeting can be found at the bottom of this article and this story will be updated as more details are made available.

A week after former Republican Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador was suddenly nominated to the Central District Health Board, Ada County Commissioners voted on Tuesday to confirm their recommendation over another candidate, a doctor and infectious disease expert.

Last week, Ada County Commissioners Ryan Davidson and Rod Beck voted in favor of appointing Labrador to the CDH board after speaking to him individually. Commissioner Kendra Kenyon abstained and raised concerns of a possible open meeting law violation, which is now being looked into by Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor.

The majority of commissioners in CDH's jurisdiction - Valley, Elmore and Boise counties - must also now confirm Labrador's appointment in order for it to become official. 

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the CDH board voted to confirm their recommendation of Raul Labrador to the CDH board over Dr. Sky Blue, a physician with Sawtooth Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, an independent group that treats patients in all of the hospitals in the Treasure Valley. Dr. Blue has over 25 years of experience working with CDH and state agencies.

If it wasn't for the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed about 400,000 Americans with over 1,600 dead in Idaho, Dr. Blue said he wouldn't have sought out the positions.

“I didn’t want us to have a pandemic," Blue told KTVB on Monday. "I didn’t want to be in the place we are today, but given those features, I want to be in a position where my knowledge and expertise can help, so I feel like this is a natural position for that."

After Dr. Blue was interviewed by the board, Chairman Beck said the was already one health physician on the Central Health Board and having another would be problematic under current Idaho law. 

He said the board could reach out the Dr. Sky whenever they need his expertise, even though being on the board would solve that issue. Beck also hinted that Dr. Sky could run for Dr. Ted Epperly's seat when the five-year term ends later this year.

Beck also said in his closing statements that the CDH board is a board of policymakers, not doctors, and the issues of septic tanks would be beneath Dr. Sky.

"I am a little nervous about taking somebody in infectious diseases expert monopolizing any of your time on things like septic tanks during the pandemic. I mean, I think there are a lot of things that are going to come up that are beneath your abilities when we're dealing with the pandemic and trying to get through that," Beck said. "Obviously, your advice and counsel is, is welcome and I would encourage you if you see fit to apply for the, for the doctor's position on the board. But as I did mention in my questioning to you this is not really a board of doctors it's a board of policymakers who are taking the science and the advice from some of the best doctors in the world, and translating that into public policy."

He went on that Labrador does have the experience to handle the issue if a vaccine mandate were made by President-elect Joe Biden's administration, even though this is no such proposed legislation, and he can work with the rural communities outside of Ada County.

"A lot of people are concerned and rightly so that at some point at least perhaps under this new administration vaccination may become mandatory. It might not be mandatory legally but it may end up being mandatory functionally where you may not be able to get on airline..." Beck said. "So, these are the public policy decisions that I found that a former distinguished member of the United States Congress would be in a good position to wrestle with as he had done that for several terms."

Davidson and Beck voted in favor of keeping the commissioners' nomination of Labrador due to his 25 years of political experience and voted against Dr. Sky because of his 25 years of medical experience, which would be too much for the mundane issues CDH would face outside of the coronavirus pandemic.

Labrador was a former Republican state representative from 2006 to 2010 and was a U.S. Congressman from 2011 until 2018 when he tried to run for the Idaho Republican Gubernatorial Nomination, which he lost to then-Lt. Governor Brad Little.

Commissioner Kenyon voted no because she believes the CDH member should have medical experience, especially so during a global health crisis.

"I think I'm gonna have to, instead of abstaining just vote no, I don't feel like I can go against the recommendations of our top pop the top public health officials institutions, and St. Luke's, Satlzer Health, Primary Health and Dr. Pate," she said. "I would make my decision based on who was best for this position and I think clearly. Dr. Blue is a better candidate than Mr. Raul Labrador, I have not seen where Mr. Raul Labrador has any public health expertise or knowledge."

Davidson said the notion that Larbador doesn't care about public health is "really disturbing" because Labrador has a family in the area so he's "immensely interested" in it.

Dr. Blue also said while being questioned that he has been in the area since 1997 and has no intentions of going anywhere and fulfilling the five-year term to the board.

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