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City of San Antonio announces transition plan for Metro Health Department and COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Published on Monday, December 14, 2020

City of San Antonio announces transition plan for Metro Health Department and COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Dr. Bridger to continue to serve as pandemic Incident Commander; Mary Garr to assume interim Health Director duties; City actively recruiting for permanent Director

CONTACT: Laura Mayes, 210-207-1337


SAN ANTONIO (December 14, 2020) — City Manager Erik Walsh announced today that Dr. Colleen Bridger, who has been serving double-duty as Assistant City Manager and Interim Director of the San Antonio Metro Health Department, will continue to serve the community as the Incident Commander of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Bridger recently announced her retirement from the City of San Antonio, effective January 8, 2021; however, she will continue to serve the City in that capacity to see the community through the pandemic.


“We are in a critical juncture in the fight against COVID-19, and asking a new health director to assume responsibility at this stage of the pandemic isn’t in the best interests of the community or the City of San Antonio organization,” said Walsh. “Dr. Bridger and I have reached an agreement that will allow us to maintain continuity and utilize her public health pandemic expertise. Once again, Colleen has answered the call of duty, and we as a community owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”


“The Metro Health Department has proven itself as a high-functioning, exceptional team,” said Bridger. “With cases surging, vaccine planning underway and several new initiatives ramping up, our team of public health professionals remains focused on getting through this pandemic and improving the overall health of the San Antonio community.”


While the City conducts a nationwide search for the new Metro Health director, Mary Garr, President and Chief Executive Officer of Family Service in San Antonio, has agreed to serve as the Interim Director of Metro Health, overseeing all public health operations other than the COVID-19 response and providing support to Metro Health Leadership. She will serve as a “loaned executive” to the City, splitting her time between Metro Health and Family Service until a new Metro Health Director is appointed by the City Manager.


Garr is a former Garrison Commander overseeing daily operations for Joint Base San Antonio- Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, a job often compared to city management, and COO for the San Antonio Military Health System which integrated Army and Air Force healthcare delivery in San Antonio. Garr also was handpicked by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army to serve as consultant on healthcare administration policy, education and training, career development and guidance to hundreds of Army healthcare administrators. Most recently, she served as CEO of the Army Residence Community, or ARC, a continuing care residence community for retired veterans.


“At Family Service we focus on addressing the social determinants of health,” said Garr. “This interim assignment represents an important partnership in the work that Family Service and Metro Health can expand to jointly address and improve the health of our community.”


Garr holds a master’s in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, a master’s in health administration from Baylor University, and a bachelor’s in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She is also a proficient Spanish speaker.


“Mary brings executive leadership and much-needed bandwidth to a Metro Health team that has been working tirelessly on the pandemic since February,” said Walsh. “I am tremendously grateful to the entire Metro Health Team for their dedication to our community and to Family Service for allowing us to borrow Mary’s talent and expertise.”


The “loaned executive” arrangement is not unprecedented. Last year, (Ret.) Gen. Juan Ayala, the City’s Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, served part-time as the President/CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce while the Chamber conducted a search for a permanent leader.


The Metro Health Director has been posted on the City’s website,, and the City is actively recruiting candidates for the position.

Number of views (1117)

Author: John Quiroz (GPA)

Categories: City News, Health, COVID