Key figure in bird flu response set to retire

Dr. Bill Hartmann, executive director of Minnesota Board of Animal Health and state veterinarian. Animal Health board photo

The board that directed Minnesota’s response to last year’s bird flu outbreak is looking for a new leader.

Come June, Dr. Bill Hartmann will retire as the state’s chief veterinarian and the Board of Animal Health executive director. A nationwide search for his successor began with a job posting on Wednesday.

Hartmann has worked at the board almost three decades, the last 15 as its leader. He oversaw efforts to combat an avian flu outbreak in Minnesota’s poultry industry, chronic wasting disease among deer and bovine tuberculosis.

Hartman said Thursday that he’s willing to stay on longer if there’s another outbreak of avian flu.

“Hopefully the person that is hired into my spot will have experience with it and know how to deal with it. If not, I’d certainly be available to stay on or consult, whichever would be necessary,” Hartmann said.

The new chief will make up to $117,000 per year. Candidates must hold a doctorate in veterinary medicine and be licensed to practice in the state. They also must show command in strategic planning, disease diagnosis and legislative process. The board hopes to get a pool of applicants by the end of February.

State animal health officials are spending the winter months trying to defend against another avian flu outbreak.

Hartmann stressed that even though predictions didn’t pan out of a bird flu return last fall amid wild waterfowl migration, he has been consulting with national and international experts about what might happen this spring.

“Nobody has really been able to tell me with any certainty what to expect so we’re certainly preparing for this spring but we’re hoping that all those preparations will be unnecessary,” he said.

The bird flu hit Minnesota’s poultry industry hard. It led to the extermination of nine million birds at more than 100 affected farms.