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Laws Regarding the Appointment and Authority of Local Health and Deputy Officers

Appointment of Health Officers (RSA 128:1)
State law defines the process by which local health officers are appointed. The Board of Selectmen in a town recommends an individual for appointment to the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Health Officer Liaison (HOL) on behalf of the Commissioner then appoints the health officer based on that recommendation. The Commissioner has the sole legal authority to appoint town health officers. Identification cards, certificates and letters of appointment are issued by the HOL. If there are any questions about a term of office, please contact the HOL. According to State of New Hampshire law, a recommendation must be submitted to the Commissioner within 15 days of notification by the Department. If a recommendation is not made, then the Commissioner may appoint a health officer.

Residence (RSA 128:2)
The town health officer shall be a resident of the State of New Hampshire.

Secretary of Local Board (RSA 128:3)
The town health officer shall be the secretary and executive officer of the local board of health and with the board of selectmen constitute the local board of health for the town.

Term of Office (RSA 128:4)
The town health officer shall hold office for 3 years or until a successor is appointed. An individual currently serving as health officer can be reappointed, and there is no legal limit on the number of times a health officer may be reappointed.

Duties: Compensation (RSA 128:5)

  • Shall enforce the public health laws and rules.
  • Make sanitary investigations as directed by the local board of health, or state Division of Public Health.
  • May prevent pollution of any aquifer or body of water... to prevent further pollution.
  • Shall receive for the health officer's services the compensation fixed by the selectmen or the town…
  • May serve temporarily at the request of any other New Hampshire town and may perform any lawful duties within that other town. For the purposes of this paragraph, "temporarily'' means 30 calendar days or fewer.

Entry Authorized for Investigation (RSA 128:5-a)
A health officer or deputy health officer shall not be guilty of criminal trespass pursuant to RSA 635:2 when conducting an investigation of sanitary conditions on private property without the consent of the owner, regardless of whether or not the property is designated secured premises (this does not include living quarters).

Deputy Health Officers (RSA 128:5-b) and (RSA 128:6-a)
Health officers have the authority to appoint a deputy health officer. The appointment of a deputy health officer is subject to the approval of the Board of Selectmen and the Commissioner of the DHHS. Deputy health officers are empowered to enforce public health laws and make sanitary investigations as directed by the health officer or requested by the Commissioner or their designee. Deputy Health Officer terms shall run concurrently with the Health Officers term that made the nomination.

Health Officers for Several Towns (RSA 128:6)
An individual can serve as the health officer of more than one town. This individual would be recommended by the Board of Selectmen of each town and appointed by the Commissioner as the health officer in each town.

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New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
129 Pleasant Street | Concord, NH | 03301-3852

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