LOWELL — A former employee of the Andover Health Department was named the new permanent director of Health and Human Services in Lowell.
Joanne Belanger is expected to start in the city on April 21 following a 33 year career in Andover. She has served in several capacities in the town department including most recently as the assistant health director and public health nurse.
Belanger, now a Westford resident, grew up in Lowell and said she is eager to return to working in the city.
“I’m very anxious to get started,” she said. “I grew up in the city and it’s changed so much from my growing up years in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Belanger, 57, has also served as the director of the Greater River Valley Medical Reserve Corps. for over a decade. Since 2017 she has sat on the Westford Board of Health.
“Joanne Belanger’s depth of experience with the Town of Andover’s Health Department makes her well prepared to serve as Director of Health and Human Services at a time when the role will be of heightened importance,” City Manager Eileen Donoghue said in a press release.
Belanger said Lowell’s health department is “making such strides” with their ongoing programming and response to the Coronavirus.
“We have a real problem and I hope to get up to speed as quickly as possible,” she said. “They’re doing fabulous things.”
Jo-Ann Keegan has served as the interim director for the department since the resignation of former director Kerran Vigroux in mid-December.
Keegan is a retired public health nursing adviser for the state. Per state law retired Massachusetts employees may only work for a government entity up to 960 hours per year, though this limitation was lifted due to the current state of emergency, according to city spokesman Phil Geoffroy. The city does not anticipate Keegan will exceed this limit even as she stays on to help the transition to a new director.
“While the precise timing of a transition has not been determined, JoAnn Keegan will remain with the City for a limited period following the hiring of a permanent Director in order to ensure continuity in the public health response to the ongoing crisis,” according to Geoffroy.
Donoghue praised Keegan’s work amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Drawing from her distinguished career with the Department of Public Health, JoAnn Keegan has adeptly managed the city’s response to the coronavirus crisis,” Donoghue said in a press release. “The City is fortunate to have had JoAnn’s leadership during this public health emergency. I have full confidence that Joanne Belanger will succeed in building on the strong foundation has been laid in the city’s public health response to the crisis.”
Belanger will be paid $110,208 annually in the new position, according to the city.