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ROCK ISLAND — Just three weeks after the controversial chief nursing officer of the Rock Island County Health Department was fired, a replacement has been hired for the position. 

Sharon Widick began Sept. 9 as the department's chief nursing officer, taking over from Shari Ortner, who was terminated Aug. 19.

Health Department Administrator Nita Ludwig said Widick was the best candidate out of four qualified finalists. Widick, a Rock Island native, has worked at UnityPoint Health-Trinity Rock Island since 2000 in different nursing roles, Ludwig said. 

"She is jumping right in and catching on to all of the things going on in the department," Ludwig said of Widick. "She's doing great, and she's eager to learn."

Ludwig said Widick will be paid an annual salary of $58,240. Ortner's salary was $63,336 at the time of her termination. 

Widick earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her registered nurse degree from Black Hawk College.

Ludwig said Widick will supervise a staff of five in the infectious diseases department, including a vacant position yet to be filled. As chief nursing officer, Widick also will oversee five additional nurses at the health department. 

Ortner, who worked at the health department for less than two years, was the subject of three formal complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Illinois Department of Human Rights, alleging racism, discrimination and harassment.

lawsuit was filed April 12 by Cynthia Lodge, a former employee, alleging wrongful termination for her participation in an October complaint against Ortner. 

The complaints and lawsuit are still pending. 

The work atmosphere had become so strained between Ortner and her staff that board members approved a recommendation by Ludwig during the July 11 board meeting to hire a nursing supervisor to act as a buffer between Ortner and the employees reporting to her. 

Ludwig said the department was able to hire Widick so quickly because of the pool of resumes that were submitted for the nursing supervisor position, which has been eliminated since Ortner's termination. 

Ludwig said so far, staffers in the infectious diseases department are reacting well to their new supervisor. 

"I met with staff before (Widick) started, and we talked about working as a team," Ludwig said. "They seemed receptive to that, and it's going great."

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