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Getting to know Pittsfield’s new permanent public health director

Andy Cambi.
Andy Cambi
Andy Cambi.

As the new public health director of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Andy Cambi takes on a job that has grown exponentially in significance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago.

Cambi, 33, has a bachelor’s degree in leadership and business from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. He’s served as an interim director since September. With his appointment to the full job by the board of health this month, Cambi replaces the city’s last permanent public health director, mentor Gina Armstrong.

“She always provided me that green light to get that education, with the conferences and educational seminars available,” he told WAMC. “So she was very engaging in me getting those opportunities. And then, with our board members that we have with our Board of Health members, building those relationships and constantly going to the meetings, or making sure that we're in communication throughout the pandemic as far as what my role was during the pandemic, and then just dealing with all the departments within the city. You know, it's been seven years since I've been working with the city. So those relationships just keep growing. And now I have that opportunity to engage more.”

Cambi – who was born in New York City before moving to the Berkshires at 5 – has had varied experiences within Pittsfield’s health department.

“Mostly, I've been doing work with inspectional services, and I've had the opportunity to oversee other inspectors in my last position as the senior sanitarian,” said the new public health director. “So that gave me the management experience. So being with the department for seven years, I've been able to see all roles within the public health departments. So it was the only right step for me as something as a personal goal and a professional goal to reach the health director.”

One of his goals is to build a better relationship between the department and the community – including outreach specifically to Pittsfield’s Spanish-speaking population.

“When I had first moved here from New York City, the amount of Spanish speaking abilities as far as within government, or even just school services were very limited,” said Cambi. “So I want to further have that opportunity to give that availability to any Spanish speakers- But not just Spanish speakers, also to any diversity that we have within the community.”

Making the department’s functions better understood in the community is part of that effort.

“We do a lot of things that I feel the community is not aware of, such as housing inspections and beach sampling," said Cambi. "Tobacco, we do tobacco inspections. So I think, just kind of getting a light to that would be good.”

An early project during Cambi’s tenure as public health director will be the distribution of state-provided at-home COVID-19 testing kits. Governor Charlie Baker announced this month that Massachusetts would provide over 2 million tests to communities hit hard by the pandemic.

“We did receive our kits as of Friday, this past Friday,” Cambi told WAMC. “And once we received notice that we were going to receive those kits, I started reaching out to all the organizations in the community and it gave me the opportunity to kind of introduce myself and start building those relationships. So as of Friday, we started distributing out kids such as ServiceNet, BCArc, the Berkshire Dream Center, the Habitat for Humanity just to name a few. But that's kind of how we're getting all these kits out. We're reaching out to these organizations that have already a well-rounded community group and they can get them out even further out.”

His ascension to the department’s highest seat comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has made its work more visible and vital than ever.

“I think public health is now very well established in our community," said Cambi. "I think we see a great need for it, not just the response to the pandemic now, but we're going to have to see what is our after-response for what pandemic effects have in our community. So public health has been put into the role as a big player, and I look forward to working on that.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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