Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom Deserves Praise, Not a Pink Slip

Militia member Dan Scoville (green cap) reaches for former Shasta County Sheriff’s deputy Greg Walker, who holds a Vote YES Recall Moty sign at Jan. 18 board of supervisor protest event.

The baseless recall of District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty last month triggered a diabolical domino effect in which other respected county leaders are also in danger of being removed from office by a group of ultra-conservative extremists whose goal is to “take back Shasta County”.

For many in this group, the use of force and/or violence remains an option.


This group’s concept of taking back Shasta County includes removing key leaders who don’t goose-step to the beat of their tone-deaf drummer.

They utilize several means of leader-eradication. First, there’s outright recall, which is what happened with Moty, after more than a year of threats, and an expensive misinformation advertising campaign funded by Connecticut son-of-a-billionaire Reverge Anselmo.

Second, they make things so uncomfortable that leaders jump, rather than wait to be pushed from their jobs. That’s what happened with Donnell Ewert, head of Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, who retired early last month, sooner than he was ready, because of the political pressure.

Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency director Donnell Ewert received pressure to resign.

Finally, they employ the tactic of groundless outright firing, which is exactly what’s in play now with regard to Karen Ramstrom, Shasta County’s chief health officer.

Shasta County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom

The alt-right “patriots” have had Moty, Ewert and Ramstrom in their sights for some time. In December they gathered to stratagize how to bring about the demise of those three leaders’ careers.


March 1 was the first meeting in which the Shasta County Board of Supervisors flipped to a 3-2 majority and put the crazed ultra-conservatives in control.

New board chair District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh, drunk on power, wasted no time wielding his scepter, and proclaiming a laundry list of commands and intentions.

Board Chair District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh.

One of Baugh and friends’ most ambitious goals is to remove Ramstrom from her post. Why? Because that’s what his followers and handlers want, and their wish is Baugh’s command.

A man holds a sign that mocks Shasta County health officer Karen Ramstrom during a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting last year.

Some recall ringleaders, like Carlos Zapata, have even made threats about what would happen if Ramstrom wasn’t removed from her job.

In this 2021 post, Zapata warns then-sheriff Eric Magrini and Baugh that he has “thousands upon thousands of patriots” who’d storm the chambers if “you all don’t fix this”.

By “fixing this” Zapata means, “Let’s just get rid of Karen Ramstrom. She doesn’t belong here.”

The reason that Zapata, Baugh and others want Ramstrom gone is that for them, she personifies every gripe they have about the pandemic, from masks and vaccines, to social distancing and business closures.

Mostly, their complaints have to do with what they perceive as government overreach. They refuse to comply with state public health mandates that have nothing to do with Ramstrom or her authority.

During the March 1 board meeting, loud hoots, whistles and applause erupted from the delighted audience when Baugh said that the board would hold a closed-session meeting to evaluate Ramstrom.

In Baugh’s tawdry book of tricks, “ to evaluate” is synonymous with “to fire”.

Ever since the pandemic’s start, Ramstrom has had a target on her back by those who blamed her for state COVID-19 mandates.

Since then, Ramstrom and her staff have received threats, both public and private. During board meetings, mobs of angry citizens publicly berated Ramstrom about the state’s handling of COVID-19. She’s been yelled at, mocked, heckled and cursed during many meetings by people who couldn’t grasp the difference between local authority versus state authority.

They were blind to the fact that blaming Ramstrom for state pandemic mandates makes about as much sense as blaming a meteorologist for the drought.

Baugh and his supporters seem ignorant of the fact that COVID is just one of many infectious diseases and public health concerns Ramstrom is duty-bound to help prevent, just as she’s duty-bound to enforce local, state and federal public health laws.

Debunking false allegations

A News Cafe contacted Ramstrom to address the primary complaints leveled against her and her department. Here’s a list of just a sample of allegations, and the truth about each one:

Does health-officer authority require an official health emergency?


But Ramstrom has the authority to override state requirements, right?.

Wrong. However, she does have the authority as chief health officer to put local orders into effect that are even more restrictive than state mandates, as some counties have done. Ramstrom did not.

Ramstrom doesn’t care about COVID-19 vaccine side effects.

False. She does care, and as a medical professional she seeks guidance from experts in vaccine research, infectious disease and immunology.

Shasta County Health and Human Services/Public Health doesn’t report to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

False. They do report to VAERS, and it’s been a standard practice in the county for decades.

Ramstrom supports a K-12 COVID-19 vaccine requirement without the option of a personal-belief exemption.

False. She does not. However, although she remains confident with COVID vaccines’ safety and effectiveness, she also believes time is needed for the community to become comfortable with vaccines, too. She’s concerned about mandates’ unintended consequences where parents turn to homeschooling, resulting in students losing the benefits of the group school experience.


Karen Ramstrom, away from the madness of Shasta County Board of Supervisors chambers.

An Army veteran who started her medical career as a general medical officer, Ramstrom has been the county’s chief medical officer since 2018. She arrived in time for the Carr Fire, and a measles outbreak, and snowmageddon, and public safety power shutoffs and numerous wildfires.

Plus, she’s the county’s Medical Health Operational Area Coordinator, a crucial position during disasters and emergencies.

She’s also the county’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Director. In that capacity she has worked to prevent congenital syphilis, a condition that has increased in Shasta County in recent years, and can lead to serious health outcomes for infants, including death. She’s also advocated for an initiative to address substance-exposed pregnancies.

Despite enduring unrelenting criticism and false COVID-related accusations, Ramstrom collaborated with other health officers to help provide guidance for schools. In fact, many Shasta County schools remained open while other schools throughout the state were limited to distance-learning.

She advocated that restaurants be allowed to open, and remain open. She prioritized support for skilled nursing facilities and the protection of those vulnerable populations. She and her staff provided support to congregate settings, such as the jail and the courthouse, and guidance for such North-State specific events as the 2020 Junior Livestock Auction, and Turtle Bay’s Million Lights during the holidays.

Finally, she participated in more than 80 media briefings to update the public about COVID-19, and ensured that the briefings were broadcast on various social media sites.

COVID-19 media briefing.

Citizens can help

Ramstrom needs the community’s support, and there are many ways to demonstrate that support. First, citizens can attend Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting, and for that matter, all future meetings, to keep watch over county shenanigans. The meetings are held in the supervisor chambers, inside the Shasta County Administration Building at 1450 Court St. in Redding. (Meetings begin at 9, but it’s best to arrive early.)

Bring 8-inch by 12-inch signs that express support for Ramstrom. (Large signs and posters are not allowed inside the chambers.)

Write letters of support for Ramstrom, and if there’s no time to mail them, letters may be hand-delivered to the clerk of the board in room 308-B at the county’s administration building before 5 p.m. Monday. Statements may also be emailed to clerkoftheboard@co.shasta.ca.us

Finally, if nothing else, just show up and be one more sane person to help fill the chambers with people who not only support Ramstrom, but also support the two remaining rational leaders on the dais, District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert, and District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti.

Others whose jobs may be in peril include Shasta County CEO Matt Pontes, Shasta County Counsel Rubin Cruse, and all the good people who work to make Shasta County a safe, civilized place.

Power to the rational people

Supervisor Baugh seeks to remove Ramstrom from a job in which her performance has been exemplary. If anything, Baugh should be delivering accolades to Ramstrom, not advocating a pink slip.

Add to Shasta County’s recent insanity the strong likelihood that Baugh and his fellow destructive supervisors Tim Garman of District 2 and Patrick Jones of District 4 will not rest until they’re able to not just target county department heads, leaders and entire departments, but to see that some of the county’s most dedicated public servants lose their jobs.

We saw what happened last month when more Shasta County residents didn’t fight the recall election. Moty lost his job.

There are two choices: Stand up to the destructive forces at work inside the board chambers before it’s too late, or watch the deliberate dismantling of county government, one leader, one employee, one department at a time.


Tues. March 15 8 p.m. update

A little after 7 tonight the Board of Supervisors finally came out of a closed session meeting that included discussion about Karen Ramstrom’s performance evaluation, something requested by chair Baugh at the last BOS meeting as an agenda item.

The board members entered the room, and literally barely sat down before Baugh asked County Counsel Rubin Cruse to make the announcement we’d been waiting for since 9 a.m.: Cruse said there was no reportable action taken. Meeting adjourned.

Watch for my more in-depth report about today’s BOS meeting later on ANC.


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Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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