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Shasta County supervisors fire health officer Ramstrom

karen-ramstrom cropped.jpg
Shasta County
Dr. Karen Ramstrom was fired from her position as Shasta County health officer on Tuesday by the board of supervisors.

The Shasta County board of supervisors fired their local county health officer on Tuesday. The 3-2 vote came from a new board majority sympathetic to far-right protesters who were critical of Dr. Karen Ramstrom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ramstrom was the target of bitter criticism from residents throughout the pandemic because she upheld state public health measures. On Tuesday, that came to a head when the county’s new far-right board majority fired her.

“The board of supervisors has taken action to terminate County Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom’s at-will employment with the county without cause,” Board Chair Les Baugh announced after a closed session.

The supervisors offered no explanation of their vote. Supervisors Patrick Jones and Tim Garman joined Baugh in voting to terminate Ramstrom. Supervisors Mary Rickert and Joe Chimenti voted against her dismissal.

In an April 29 editorial on the Redding website A News Cafe, Ramstrom wrote that her most recent county performance review in October, 2021 did not mention any problems.

“My performance review did not mention anything suggesting that my job was in jeopardy, and I have no specific information from the Board that my job performance was unsatisfactory in any way,” Ramstrom wrote, amid speculation that she might soon be fired.

Health officials in Shasta County have faced a challenging past several years. Besides Ramstrom, the county’s head of Health and Human Services, Donnell Ewert, retired in February, citing political upheaval and threats.

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.