Teller County Commissioners Approve New Health Chief

Department Director Has Strong Ties to the Area; Faces Tough Challenges

Rick Langenberg

It was a grand farewell to the old guard and a strong welcome for a new leader, as the Teller County Commissioners, acting as the Board of Health, appointed Michelle Wolff last week as their new TCPHE (Teller County Public Health and Environment) director.

She replaces Martha Hubbard, the interim health chief since early 2021, when the commissioners opted for a major change in direction and decided to part ways with Jacque Revello.

The commissioners cited Wolff ‘s strong experience in the medical arena as a huge plus for the county.  Wolff is a nurse practitioner with nearly 20 years of experience in health care, including surgery, trauma, and women’s health. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the UCCS (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) Beth-El College of Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Cincinnati. According to a county press release, “she has a passion for preventative health care with interests in nutrition and integrative medicine.”

After working several years in the hospital system and outpatient clinics in Colorado Springs, Wolff according to a county press release, is ready to return to work in Teller County. “She is enthusiastic about protecting the history of Teller County and the health of our community. Michelle’s family has lived and worked in the Teller County community for over 80 years,” stated the commissioners, in their announcement.

Wolff definitely has strong ties to the area. She is part of the Markus family, which has been a part of the community for decades. Her brother, Jake Markus, is a Teller County Sheriff deputy.

“The Teller County Board of County Commissioners and Teller County are very fortunate to have Michelle Wolff join our team,” said Commission Chairman Bob Campbell.  “She has a long family history in our county and, in addition to her incredible medical experience, understands the people of Teller County, our values, and our lifestyle. With her on our team, we will successfully navigate the challenges of COVID and transition to a bright future continuing to care for our residents. We also want to thank Martha Hubbard for stepping back into the leadership of Public Health at a very difficult time and performing so admirably.”

During last week’s meeting, the board gave Wolff a super-warm welcome. But most of their comments focused on congratulating Hubbard for the leadership role she played in the last 10 months during a difficult period, as the  health department was often the target of  much criticism.  Hubbard, who retired from the TCPHE agency in 2017, agreed to help the county and serve as the Interim Public Health Director. She played a key role in establishing vaccination clinics and helping to educate residents about the COVID situation.

“You were a catalyst for confidence in our county,” said Commissioner Erik Stone.  He cited the leadership she offered during the  COVID crisis. “We had people who had not been out of their home in a year,” he added, in describing the humane manner in which Hubbard dealt with residents who often felt uncomfortable about the vaccination process. “It’s about the heart,” added Stone.

“It’s a sad day,” commented Commission Vice-Chairman Dan Williams, in discussing the changing of the guard at the agency. “You really stepped up. There were a lot of expectations to get us out of this crisis.”

Hubbard thanked the commissioners for their comments, and felt confident in the pick of Wolff as her permanent successor. She stated that Wolff was the top pick among nine top finalists for the position. She mentioned Wolff’s medical expertise as a strong asset.

Teller Not Out of the COVID Woods

Wolff, however, will face quite a challenge as the new TCPHE director.

The COVID-19 epidemic is still raging across Teller and the Pikes Peak region.  According to the latest statistics, Teller has now exceeded the 2,900-mark for COVID-19 inflictions and 28 coronavirus-related fatalities. And unfortunately, its seven-day case count is listed as 93, which on a per capita basis amounts to 372 per 100,000. Those are regarded as red danger levels.

But compared to El Paso County, Teller’s numbers aren’t that bad.  During one day last week, Teller’s neighboring county recorded close to 600 cases. Colorado has become a hotbed for COVID inflictions,  a trend that most attribute to the spread of the Delta variant.  Hospital beds have reached a saturation level, with Governor Jared Polis pleading with residents to get vaccinated.

In Teller County, less than 60 percent of the citizens are fully vaccinated, a statistic that is similar to other rural areas.

Even with this dire news, the booster shots are being heavily promoted on the county’s website.  These are now  available for many Teller County residents

Teller County leaders and public health officials are encouraging vaccinations, but are refusing to favor any mandates or more restrictions.