Mimi Hall, Health Services Agency Director
Santa Cruz County
November 9, 2020
Please describe your role with your County:
In my role as the Health Services Agency I get to pursue a vision of better health, every day, for everyone through the Agency’s Public Health, Behavioral Health, Clinic Services, Environmental Health and Administration Divisions. We serve a county population of 273,000 with a budget of $200M and 600 staff. Every facet of our work relies on collaborative partnerships at all levels of the community, meaningful engagement of the people we serve to inform how we serve them, and using data, science and best practices grounded in evidence.
What motivated you to enter public service?
I was born in rural Myanmar (Burma), where our family often lived without running water or electricity. I remember the rationing of staple foods, and my mother standing in line for powdered milk. Years of military rule were accompanied by the civil and human rights atrocities that still exist today. My father led a life of service, demonstrating the pursuit of equality and humanity for all, and coming to the U.S. meant opportunity to freely lead lives of purpose. He passed away before bearing witness to some of my proudest accomplishments, but my work allows me to pay his dreams forward.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Courage by Gordon Brown, for what’s probably the 10th or 12th time. My copy has notes in the margins, dog eared pages, and lots of underlined passages. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown shares his deep admiration of eight people who changed the world by their courage. My favorite quote is, “Courage is not a luxury, but a must in the struggle against prejudice, racism, violence, discrimination and injustice, and in the creation of a good society”. This book grounds me firmly when the forces against doing the right thing become overwhelming.
What’s the most interesting or fulfilling part of your job?
This year, COVID-19 response, followed by weeks of wildfires, have underscored the importance of public health emergency preparedness and response. My background is firmly rooted in public health, so it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to be of service during a pandemic. Santa Cruz County acted early with declaring a public health emergency and shelter in place orders, and included equity as an overall objective in the COVID-19 emergency response. The Santa Cruz community has really come together, with everyone doing their part to curb transmission. It’s been nothing short of amazing watching our community show such care and concern for each other.
Do you have any words of advice for someone interested in becoming a Health Services Agency Director?
My advice for those who aspire to a leadership role is to always remember your “why”. True passion and commitment for the work you do and the people you serve will show in the quality and depth of your work and result in real impacts to your community. And as you lay your path to leadership, remember some of its most important principles – humility, respect, equity, collective versus individual power – and practice them daily at home and at work. These are the hallmarks of a true leader, and they will earn you credibility and trust when demonstrated consistently.