MINNEAPOLIS — Mayor Jacob Frey has nominated Damōn Chaplin to serve as the City’s next Health Commissioner. Upon City Council approval, Chaplin will step in to lead the Minneapolis Department of Health.
With more than 20 years of experience in public health administration, strategic planning, and community coalition building, Chaplin has reportedly demonstrated a “deep commitment to creating a safe, healthy, and equitable community for all.” Chaplin emerged as a finalist through a competitive, national search undertaken by a third-party executive recruitment firm.
“The past three years have made it clear that public health is at the forefront of our daily lives,” said Mayor Frey. “Minneapolis needs a leader who can prioritize health and safety for all who live here, and Damōn Chaplin is that person. Both his experience navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and deep knowledge of opioid recovery work will prove beneficial to our city. I’m grateful to interim Commissioner Heidi Ritchie, who stepped up to lead the department over the past year. Her steadfast dedication to our City and Health Department will serve her well as the new Deputy Health Commissioner.”
Chaplin currently serves as the Health Director for the New Bedford Health Department where he has led staff and the community through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chaplin has fostered community partnerships to address pertinent local health issues and has helped develop model executive orders to protect employees working at companies with poor workplace conditions. Chaplin is a national leader in the field, presently serving on the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ (NACCHO) Board of Directors. As NACCHO’s Director of Region 1, Chaplin represents local health departments in CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, and VT and works to advance their public health priorities on a national scale.
Prior to his current role as Health Director, Chaplin worked as the Director of Local Public Health initiatives at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. There, he provided statewide leadership and direction to health departments interested in creating public health districts. He also led the Department’s 13 Largest Cities Project Initiative to build sustainable practices, improve health equity, and drive community engagement within vulnerable populations.
“I am excited and honored for the opportunity to join the City of Minneapolis as the next Health Commissioner,” said Chaplin. “My entire career has been dedicated to providing communities with equitable access to public health resources and programs. The health and safety of all Minneapolis residents is my number one priority, and I plan to make sure we are doing everything possible to carry out that vision — especially for our most vulnerable populations.”
Through his work, Chaplin has remained dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic. He served as co-chair for the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force, which acquired $4.5M in federal funding to help reduce opioid use in marginalized communities. He also served as a member of the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund Advisory Council to the Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Under the new government structure, the Health Commissioner reports to the City Operations Officer through the Deputy City Operations Officer for Development, Health, and Livability. The Minneapolis City Charter requires that the mayor nominate the Health Commissioner and the City Council consent to the nominee.
The mayor’s nomination of Chaplin was submitted to the full City Council at its regular meeting on January 26 for consideration and referral to the relevant committee. The length of the Health Commissioner appointment is aligned with Mayor Frey’s term in office.
Since January 2022, Heidi Ritchie has served as the interim Health Commissioner, where she led the department’s ongoing work in eliminating childhood lead poisoning, expanding the Green Cost Share and Green Careers programs, and reaching a new normal with COVID-19 through vaccinations, boosters, and testing. Ritchie will now take on full-time duties as the Deputy Health Commissioner under Chaplin.