Mayor names pick for Health & Human Services commissioner

Newton has a new Health & Human Services commissioner, pending City Council approval.

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced on Thursday that she had chosen Shin-Yi Lao to replace retiring Commissioner Linda Walsh.

“Shin-Yi has an excellent educational background, professional experience, interpersonal skills and leadership qualities to serve as our Health and Human Services Commissioner,” Fuller wrote in an email statement to the public.

Lao isn’t a new face in Newton. She currently serves at the city’s director of public health and has worked in City Hall for eight years, starting as a public health nurse in 2016 and becoming public health manager in 2021.

Before joining Newton City Hall, Lao served as a nurse at University of North Carolina Health Care and Boston Health Care for the Homeless. She was also a program coordinator at Hebrew Senior Life.

Lao has two bachelor’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—one on psychology and another in nursing—as well as a master’s degree in public health from the Boston University.

“Shin-Yi is respectful and respected,” Fuller continued. “She is poised under pressure. She is a superbly intelligent professional. She has excelled in each position she has held.”

Fuller added that the chaos of the COVID-19 public health crisis allowed Lao to harness her skillset and help the city prevail.

“Her keen ability to remain calm and focused under pressure served our community well when COVID-19 engulfed us,” Fuller wrote. “Throughout the pandemic, Shin-Yi used her in depth of knowledge of public health to translate complex science into guidance that we needed, in ways we could all understand, even as the understanding of the virus evolved. She knew what information was important to convey and created (and frequently updated) the data charts that appeared on the HHS COVID-19 webpage. She writes well and speaks clearly.”