Plainville-Southington health district chooses new director

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SOUTHINGTON — A leader from the Cheshire health district will begin as head of Southington’s health district Monday, filling a vacancy left by the departure of the former director.

Susan Bencivenga-Lonczak got the nod from the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District board of directors. She started in 2016 with the Chesprocott Health District , the district that serves Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott.

Southington leaders were impressed with her experience, her familiarity with the area and her ideas for advancing the health district.

“I think she’s going to bring a really positive vision to the district,”  said John Barry, a regional health district board member. “Susan’s experience will be able to move the district forward in ways that will be very beneficial to the general public.”

“We know she will be a great asset and resource to our towns,” said Mark Sciota, Southington’s town manager.

The health district’s director position was vacant after the resignation of Shane Lockwood who left in early October to take a position in Florida.

Advising school officials, growing the districts

Health department directors took on critical roles during the pandemic, advising on a host of government decisions and the implementation of measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. The health district’s role has changed since the height of the pandemic but Bencivenga-Lonczak said there’s still work to be done with vaccination and preventing the coronavirus spread in schools.

“Our role in the health district will still be assisting the school system greatly,” she said. “They’re still working through COVID more than anybody else.”

Beyond pandemic work, Bencivenga-Lonczak said she’s hoping to expand the district’s community health work. Chesprocott is a larger health district and includes a nurse, a position that Bencivenga-Lonczak would like to add to the Plainville-Southington district.

“It would be wonderful if we could get into offering different types of vaccinations, flu vaccines, things like that,” she said. “If COVID has shown us anything, it’s that community health is a big part of a health district.”

Southington’s district has good partnerships with organizations like Hartford HealthCare, something that Bencivenga-Lonczak wants to continue.

Chief sanitarians

Bencivenga-Lonczak was formerly a chef, experience that’s helped in working with restaurants looking to meet health codes. When she left Chesprocott, she was chief sanitarian and acting health director. Maura Esposito, Chesprocott health director, described Bencivenga-Lonczak as organized, personable and capable.

“She’s always been my rock, my second hand,” Esposito said.

Bencivenga-Lonczak has filled in for Esposito when she’s been away. The two have worked together on getting grants for the health district and Esposito said Southington will benefit from her leadership.

Barry said much of a health director’s work involves restaurant health standards, septic systems, mosquitos and other non-pandemic related duties.

Bencivenga-Lonczak impressed health board members with her knowledge of those areas.

“She has a lot of experience that’s going to work throughout the health district,” Barry said.

The Plainville-Southington regional health district, which includes Middlefield, was formed nearly a decade ago. Lockwood was hired as the first director for the district.

Bencivenga-Lonczak will earn $107,000 per year, Lockwood’s salary before his departure.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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