The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

New H&HS director looks to provide better benefits

 

December 14, 2017

Diana Zimmerman

Chris Bischoff worked for Health and Human Services in Cowlitz County for many years before he was selected to be Sue Cameron's replacement as Director of Wahkiakum Health and Human Services.

Chris Bischoff may have started in his new position as director of Wahkiakum Health and Human Services in late October, but he can already speak articulately and at length about the services provided by the organization, and what he hopes to do while he's here.

The self described science geek received a Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he was born and raised. He fell in love with the Pacific Northwest after a short visit in his youth. After getting his degree and getting married, he began to look for work in environmental health in Washington state.

"Las Vegas felt like a smaller town when I was young," Bischoff said. "By the time I was in my twenties, it was a massive metropolis and getting worse. We really wanted to raise our kids somewhere you had access to services, but not huge neighborhoods on top of each other."

That's how he landed in Cowlitz County, where he has worked for the last 12 years. He spent a decade managing their environmental health program. He supervised 12 employees and managed everything from food, to waste, to septic systems.

"I'm a science geek. I love all sciences. Except geology," he laughed. "Life expectancy was 35-37 years until the day we figured out that we needed clean water. Once we got that fixed, we brought everybody about 20 years to their life, before medical improvements. That was on environmental health. And when you are in these programs you realize we're not done. We can do better. We can get you more years. But you have to balance that with need and community acceptance."

While at Cowlitz County, a consultant came in and through evaluation, decreased the amount of time it took to process septic permits by weeks. Witnessing that lit a fire in Bischoff in regard to management and improvements.

"How do we improve programs, become more responsive to the public, and more responsive to professionals out doing the work?" Bischoff said. "We want to provide better benefit to the consumers."

Bischoff, who also has a masters degree in management and leadership from Western Governors University of Washington, was excited to take on the new position at Wahkiakum.

"It is a good opportunity," he said. "Wahkiakum County has its problems, but they happen a little slower. I always thought of myself as capable of managing departments. It was a good opportunity to step up and see if it's true. We've got a good staff here. I've worked with a lot of people around the state, at all kinds of levels. It's very impressive what is getting done here by this department in the county."

"I'm a generalist by nature," he added. "We are doing so many things at a very high level. I get to pay attention to a lot of things and rely on my employees to be the experts on things."

He wants to continue to focus on process improvements, look to the future, and if funding allows, to expand services and keep doing things better and better.

Bischoff and his wife live west of Longview, and have five children. He loves football, science fiction, and gardening. He is already planning a presentation on straw bale gardening for the WSU Extension office in Cowlitz County.

 

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