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San Antonio Announces New Interim Metro Health Director; Asst. City Manager Stays On To Help With COVID-19 Surge

File Photo: Dr. Colleen Bridger, center right, attends a discussion about the city's domestic violence prevention plan in October 2019
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
File Photo: Dr. Colleen Bridger, center right, attends a discussion about the city's domestic violence prevention plan in October 2019

Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger will delay her departure from the City of San Antonio to continue overseeing the response to the pandemic and a former commander of Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston will take over as Metro Health Director

San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh told the Mayor and City Council that Dr. Bridger will transition to be the COVID-19 Incident Commander on Jan. 8. In the same memo, Walsh said Mary Garr, President and CEO of Family Service, agreed to serve as interim Metro Health Director while a national search is conducted.

“(Garr) will serve as a ‘loaned executive’ to the City splitting her time between Metro Health and Family Service until a new Metro Health Director is appointed,” Walsh said in the memo.

The announcement comes on a day that San Antonio began receiving its first several thousand doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to area hospitals.

“The Metro Health Department has proven itself as a high-functioning, exceptional team,” said Bridger. “With cases surging, vaccine planning underway and several new initiatives ramping up, our team of public health professionals remains focused on getting through this pandemic and improving the overall health of the San Antonio community.”

Dr. Bridger first announced her retirement in the summer, right before a drastic spike of COVID-19 cases. Instead she remained with the city to get a handle on the surge.

She again announced her retirement to open a private consulting business earlier this month but has again agreed to remain with the city as what appears to be an even more dangerous increase in cases continues.

“Dr. Bridger and I have reached an agreement that will allow us to maintain continuity and utilize her public health pandemic expertise,” Walsh said. “Once again, Colleen has answered the call of duty, and we as a community owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”

In addition to her current role, Garr is a former Garrison Commander for Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis. She oversaw the daily operations for both installations and also served as the CEO for the San Antonio Military Health System.

“Mary brings executive leadership and much-needed bandwidth to a Metro Health team that has been working tirelessly on the pandemic since February,” said Walsh. “I am tremendously grateful to the entire Metro Health team for their dedication to our community and to Family Service for allowing us to borrow Mary’s talent and expertise.”

Walsh noted that Garr would oversee all San Antonio Metro Health operations except for the COVID-19 response, which would fall under Dr. Bridger’s responsibility.

“At Family Service we focus on addressing the social determinants of health,” said Garr. “This interim assignment represents an important partnership in the work that Family Service and Metro Health can expand to jointly address and improve the health of our community.”

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules