Wasting little time to name a replacement for longtime County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dixon, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald today announced the promotion of food safety mascot Browney the Burger to head the agency.
At a noontime press conference, Mr. Fitzgerald praised Mr. The Burger's long time service to the ACHD and called him "the right face for the future of the department."
Mr. The Burger was initially hired by the Health Department in 1990, as part of its "If it's pink in the middle, it's cooked too little" meat safety campaign. Following the completion of the campaign, he later became the spokesman for the "If it's brown flush it down" sewage awareness campaign, and then the early 2000 "Meat-like tumors are no humor" campaign, both of which were widely considered to be failures.
Mr. Fitzgerald has previously indicated that he was looking for a new executive director that could more easily respond to large, County wide health issues including combined sewer overflow & storm water management, air quality, and food safety. The outgoing Mr. Dixon had ruffled many feathers throughout the county, made little progress on these issues, and was generally seen as being a marked man. Mr. The Burger's resume would seem to indicate that he is an ideal candidate to replace Mr. Dixon.
The selection, however, is not purely a matter of qualifications, nor is it without its modicum of controversy.
Since 1995, Mr. The Burger has been the State Democratic Party treasurer, and instrumental in securing Mr. Fitzgerald's election to the the Chief Executive Office. Moreover, Mr. The Burger is widely recognized as a food safety expert, appearing on cable news frequently to provide expert opinions. He is generally known as a brash, outspoken, egotistical local personality, who personally threatened several several local reporters.
In 2005, Mr. The Burger was the subject of an investigation by the US Attorney's Office for stealing FDA rejected meat for use in a class he taught at the University of Pittsburgh food safety class.
Despite this checkered history, however, Mr. The Burger is expected to receive swift confirmation by both the ACHD board and County Council.
ADB Sr. Meat Related Mascot Correspondent MH contributed to this report