AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a city memo Friday, Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard announced the agency’s new local health authority.

Desmar Walkes, M.D., who has been the local health authority for neighboring Bastrop County since 2007, will take over for Dr. Mark Escott, who became the health authority on an interim basis in 2019.

“Dr. Walkes has 33 years of experience in health care as a family practitioner, medical authority, medical director and in administrative medicine,” Hayden-Howard wrote in the memo. “She has been the point person for Bastrop County’s COVID-19 response, participating in regular meetings with elected officials, State of Texas Public Health officials, schools, nursing homes, businesses and residents.”

Walkes founded the A+ Lifestyle Medical Group

Walkes starts May 31, Hayden-Howard said.

The health authority reports to APH director and is responsible for clinical oversight of medically related services rendered by APH and its licensed professionals, the memo said.

Escott has been the interim health authority for 20 months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and wasn’t being paid for it. He is now the city of Austin’s chief medical officer.

“When he stepped into this role, we never imagined we would be faced with a pandemic and rely so heavily on Dr. Escott as our Health Authority,” Hayden-Howard said.

“He brought professionalism, solid medical expertise, and a steady hand which instilled a trust in our community during this incredibly challenging time,” she said.