Following a brief stint as the city of Milwaukee’s top health deputy, Jennifer Freiheit has been named interim director of the Kenosha County Division of Health.
Freiheit began the position on Dec. 2. The hiring is set to go in front of the Kenosha County Human Services Committee next month and would need final approval from the County Board, according to Kenosha County Director of Human Resources Clara-Lin Tappa.
Freiheit, who earns $110,000 annually, fills a vacancy created in August when longtime Kenosha County Division of Health Director Cynthia Johnson retired after 31 years with the department.
In a Nov. 27 document delivered to the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors, County Executive Jim Kreuser recommended Freiheit’s hiring “placing special trust in her judgment” and “based upon her qualifications.”
Freiheit spent 10 months with the Milwaukee Health Department. She was hired in October 2018 as its health operations administrator and served three months (May to August) as its chief deputy commissioner.
“Working for the city of Milwaukee Health Department provided immeasurable leadership opportunities with a strong, committed team of employees who serve the community beyond compare,” Freiheit said. “It was an honor to serve them and the Milwaukee community.
“Looking forward, I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead the Kenosha County Division of Health. During my first three weeks, I’ve met with our employees and received an overview of the valuable services the division provides.
“I’m extremely impressed with all of the collaborative partners and the great work produced by the Division of Health team. I look forward to the important work ahead of us in Kenosha County.”
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According to public documents obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Freiheit resigned “to pursue other career opportunities in anticipation of budgetary restrictions.”
Other documents revealed a “series of concerns” about Freiheit’s performance.
Those concerns included a deteriorating relationship with her staff, a “serious error” in health data provided to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and a “subpar” budget.
Those actions led Jeanette Kowalik, the Milwaukee Health Department’s commissioner of health, to remove Freiheit’s “independent decision-making ability until further notice,” according to a June memo obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Tappa said Kenosha County used “a rigorous recruitment and screening process” in identifying Freiheit as a top candidate.
“That included contacting trusted references,” Tappa said. “In this case, it included the city of Milwaukee’s mayor’s office, who vouched for Jennifer Freiheit’s performance in her previous role.”
Freiheit has more than 17 years experience in state and public health care. She is the owner and independent consultant at Bay View Advanced Management LLC and serves as an adjunct assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and adjunct instructor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Freiheit received a bachelor’s degree in health education from Illinois State University, a master’s degree in wellness management and gerontology from Ball State University and a doctorate in urban education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The Kenosha County Human Services Committee is scheduled to meet Jan. 7.