He said he wants to “give back to the community” that has been good to him. That is the mindset of Gino E. Sisco, who became the top administrator for the Jefferson County Health Department in October.
The position had been vacant for about a year.
Sisco said the mostly state-funded health department has three major challenges that need to be addressed. One is obtaining more funding.
“There are always budget crunches,” he said. “The state just doesn’t have the revenues available to it like it used to with the coal industry.”
He added that Jefferson County’s nurses and other health department personnel can often earn twice as much pay in nearby Maryland and Virginia.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a concern for Sisco, particularly he said with about half of county residents being fully vaccinated compared with about 80 percent in nearby Loudoun County, Virginia.
“There are still disagreements about vaccines and masks,” he said. “People expect 100 percent protection, but we shouldn’t let what is good be the victim of what’s perfect.”
Sisco said the pandemic has overshadowed another ongoing problem facing the state and the county: opioid addiction.
“We’re the wealthiest county in the state,” he said. “We need to mitigate the opioid problem—stop it.”
Originally from Chantilly, Virginia, Sisco, 51, lived in Shepherdstown in 1989. His professional career took a variety of different turns. He was a Marine then in the active reserves from 1992 to 1997 at Andrews Air Force Base. He married his wife Cara in 1994, and they bought a house in Harpers Ferry in 1997 where the couple still lives.
Sisco went on to be a lab manager for an eye care business in Mount Airy, Maryland, from 1998 to 2004 before he became a certified optician for 10 years.
Along the way, Sisco enrolled at Shepherd University to complete a bachelor’s degree but didn’t finish his studies.
“I wanted to do something more fulfilling with my life—do something that would have an impact on people’s lives,” he explained of a period afterward. “My wife told me to go back to school, back to Shepherd University. They accepted the credits I had earned before and I was in.”
After enrolling at Shepherd again, he graduated in 2015 with a degree in political science and government. He also took classes in European history, which covered the Dark Ages “just for fun.” Ironically, the historical period also included the black plague. Little did he know then that he’d come to deal with a different kind of infectious outbreak from the coronavirus.
Sisco went on to attend American University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a master’s degree in public and health policy in 2017. While at American University, he was a state government affairs intern for the American Financial Services Association.
After graduating with his master’s degree, he worked several analytical jobs, including stints as a database researcher and writer and social media advisor.
Now landing closer to home at the health department, Sisco said he’s eager to use all his skills in his new role to help Jefferson County residents stay healthy.
“I have always been treated well here,” he said of his time as a county resident. “I want to give back to the community as much as I can.”