SRHD Administrator, Torney Smith, Announces His Upcoming Retirement

August 31, 2018

Written on behalf of Spokane Regional Health District's Board of Health

As many of you might know, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) Administrator, Torney Smith, has been eyeing retirement in recent years. It is bittersweet news for the agency's Board of Health (BOH) to report they officially received notice that Torney is retiring, effective Jan. 17, 2019.

Board members would like to take this opportunity to not only commend Torney for his years of dedication and leadership to the health district, but also to share with partners the board's transition plans moving forward.

Torney served 28 years at the health district, starting first as a program manager within the HIV/AIDS program. He eventually transitioned to start the agency’s Assessment Center (now its Data Center). He accepted the position of administrator in 2001.

Torney was briefly acting director of the agency starting in 2006, when the Board of Health released Dr. Kim Thorburn as director. What followed was a three-year period before the agency was able to fill the vacant director/health officer position with Dr. Joel McCullough. In the interim, Torney proved to be an effective leader with an acumen for influencing the public health landscape not only locally, but state-wide and nationally. With Dr. McCullough’s departure in 2016, the Board of Health restructured the agency to be an administrator-led public health entity, culminating in Torney as head of the agency for the past two years.

His legacy includes assisting Washington state’s local health departments to develop a workable set of standards for public health practice, co-chairing a state-wide standards workgroup for the public health system for 13 years. Torney is also a member of Washington State University’s Health Policy Analysis advisory board.

Nationally, he served as co-chair of the Public Health Improvement Partnership’s (PHIP) Performance Management committee, a national effort involving all public health disciplines – large, small, rural and urban - since its inception, as well as numerous other PHIP committees.

Torney also served on the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) Board of Directors and is a member of its Health Reform work group. He is a member of the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) and helped influence the development of a national set of standards for public health. He also served as a site reviewer for PHAB’s standards workgroup. Needless to say, he is a staple among national public health accreditation and quality improvement efforts. 

Thanks to Torney’s guidance and tenacity, Spokane received three consecutive-year, multi-learning collaborative grants from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to bring quality improvement efforts to the health district. He championed the need for, and importance of, establishing a quality council, which subsequently received a NACCHO Model Practice Award.

He remains active with NACCHO, PHAB, PHIP’s Public Health Informatics Institute, the Northwest Institute for Public Health Practice, the Management Academy for Public Health, and Spokane County Medical Society’s Medical Informatics Committee. And last but not least, over the past year, he set an ambitious path toward the agency’s reach for health equity by helping secure a sizeable grant from The Kresge Foundation to bolster internal and external equity work.

Torney was presented the WSALPHO Award for Excellence in Public Health in 2010 and was published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

In terms of transition to the agency's next administrator, I want to assure you the board is committed to a thorough process to determine the best candidate. Board chair, Chuck Hafner, appointed, with the BOH Executive Committee’s approval, a Transition Committee that will oversee this process. This committee is comprised of BOH representation from each jurisdiction in Spokane County.

The role of the committee includes recommending a transition timeline, assessing the status of the health district, identifying the qualifications needed of the next administrator, developing compensation and benefit guidelines, and making a determination about interim leadership, if needed.

The board will have an opportunity to consider Transition Committee membership, guidelines and timetable at the next regularly scheduled BOH meeting on Sept. 27, 2018. The board will be working very closely with the committee to make the transition to a new administrator as seamless as possible. As many of you know, filling a position of this caliber and finding the ideal candidate could take several months, in which case, if Torney has already departed, the committee will ensure there is a qualified interim director in place.

In closing, Torney’s retirement holds a new set of opportunities for him and his family. He is looking forward to volunteering in the community, travel, spending time with his wife, Krissy, two children and four grandchildren, and of course, many games of golf.

We hope you will all join us in fondly wishing Torney many good wishes for this next phase in life and his many upcoming adventures.