(CMR) In a Cayman Marl Road exclusive we can now confirm that American Jim McNelly has been appointed as the new director for the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research & Control Unit (MRCU) amid controversy.
McNelly is the current director of the Volusia Country Mosquito Control New Smyrna Beach, Florida. He was listed as a Certified Mosquito Identification and Habitat Recognition Specialist in industry publications. He also sat on the Florida Mosquito Control Association Board of Directors representing the representing the NE region in 2014-15 for a second term. He is also a member of the American Mosquito Control Association. He previously worked in New Jersey in the mid-to late 1990s as director, Cape May County before moving to Florida. He served as the President of the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association. He was on the Cape May County Mosquito Control Commission, NJ. He also worked as the Director of Environmental Sciences at Clarke Mosquito Control in the Greater Chicago area around 2011.
Despite his qualifications CMR exclusive sources indicate that the MRCU is currently “in complete turmoil” because of recent changes including this appointment. Our sources have indicated that local staff believe that Caymanian staff are in place and qualified to take over the vacancy but have not been given the opportunity to head up the agency. We understand that only one Caymanian applied for the position but by many accounts he should have received the job. One source said:
“This man has over 20 years of management experience in this field and knows the lay of the land as it relates to mosquitoes. Further, he well versed with staff and the technical management of the MRCU. By hiring an expat into this position over a qualified Caymanian they have now created a rather hostile environment.
Once again, there is proof that Caymanians can work hard, obtain the qualifications and never be full rewarded by their own government.”
There are also concerns that bringing in a director from the United States as opposed to the United Kingdom will see the implementation of various policy decisions and legislative changes that are contrary to the ongoing plan that the MRCU has operated under since inception.
“We run off of UK protocols and systems. So by having an American head-up this unit there's the potential that he will only know substances from the USA market and this could open the floodgates for a complete change in products and policy direction.”
His agency made news in 2015 when a mosquito control helicopter crashed in a wooded area near state Road 44 and interstate 95. The pilot escaped any serious injuries but the helicopter was badly damaged and said to be a complete write off.
Director Jim McNelly said the helicopter will help the phase out one of the two aging helicopters currently in the fleet. The helicopter cost the county $2.8 million.
The Mosquito Research & Control Unit (MRCU) was established in 1965 “To suppress mosquito populations so as to minimise discomfort from mosquito biting. To protect residents and visitors from mosquito-borne disease, and thereby enhance the quality of life and promote the economy of the Cayman Islands.”
Last year William “Bill” Petrie resigned after more than 30 years with the agency to head up mosquito control for Miami-Dade Country, Florida.
All of these changes come at a time with the Oxitec GM mosquito project has been under increasing scrutiny as government has said to be backing away from the multi-million dollar project to release genetically modified mosquitoes to fight the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes due to financial concerns and lackluster results.
CMR is awaiting government official press release on this appointment and will update this post once available.
MRCU issued the following press release February 27:
The Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) has announced that Dr. James “Jim” McNelly has been appointed as its new director.
Dr. McNelly will join MRCU next week from the Mosquito Control Division of Volusia County in Florida, where he has been director for more than six years.
Prior to that, Dr. McNelly was the director for environmental sciences with the Illinois-based mosquito control services and products firm Clarke from 2008 until 2011, and regional manager for the company’s environmental mosquito management programme for the preceding eight years. Previously he was the mosquito and black fly surveillance project coordinator for Rutgers University in New Jersey, and an entomologist with the Cape May County Mosquito Commission in New Jersey. He is also a past president of the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association.
Dr. McNelly has a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from the University of Delaware, Newark; a master of science in ecology from Rutgers University in New Brunswick; and holds a PhD in entomology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
“I am very much looking forward to joining the MRCU team,” said Dr. McNelly. “It will be an honour to lead this organisation which has such an excellent reputation and impressive legacy.”
The Volusia County Mosquito Control Division is similar in size to MRCU and faces many of the same challenges relating to the control of nuisance mosquitoes, which have an impact on commerce and tourism, as well as controlling vector-borne diseases.
During the past few years, Dr. McNelly’s team has contended with multiple imported cases of mosquito-borne Zika and chikungunya as well as cases of West Nile virus and malaria.
“We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. McNelly, who has a wealth of experience in mosquito control,” said Chief Officer in the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing, Jennifer Ahearn. “Dr. McNelly was the successful candidate following a rigorous recruitment process. We are very fortunate that we have been able to attract someone with such depth of knowledge, who has been running a similar-sized mosquito control programme with many challenges that we also face in the Cayman Islands.”
Dr. McNelly replaces former director Dr. Bill Petrie who left the unit last year, after three decades, to become head of the Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Division. Nancy Barnard, who has been acting director in the interim, will return to her duties as deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing.
“On behalf of the MRCU team, I extend a warm welcome to Dr. McNelly,” said Ms Barnard. “I also take this opportunity to publicly thank the staff for their cooperation and support during the months I have spent at MRCU. This is an extremely professional and harmonious unit.”
Established in 1965, MRCU plays a vital role in combatting nuisance mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, allowing residents and animals to live comfortably without being overwhelmed by mosquito bites as was the case in previous times. The mosquito control measures also allow commerce and tourism to flourish. The unit is regarded as an international leader in the fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits viruses including Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Aedes aegypti, an invasive species in the Cayman Islands, is becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides.
Dr. McNelly takes up his appointment at MRCU on Monday, 5 March 2018.