Rowan County health director retiring
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Leonard Wood says he’s had a “wonderful opportunity” to spend 13 years as Rowan County’s health director, but now it’s time for him to retire.
Wood’s official retirement date is Aug. 1, and his last day at the health department will be July 27.
“After 30-plus years in the public health field, at 63 years old, I’m ready to do something different,” Wood said. “It’s just time. And it’s time for new ideas over at the health department.”
The county health board has decided on a new director, he said, but the hiring process hasn’t been finalized just yet.
Several times during a phone interview Monday, the health director mentioned how much he has enjoyed working in Rowan County, and how glad he is to have had the opportunity.
“It’s been exciting to work here, because folks are willing to look to the future, deal with issues that need to be dealt with and make decisions to improve public health services in Rowan County,” Wood said. “We got a lot of support for that, from elected officials, to the Board of Health, to the staff, to the community.”
Commissioner Chad Mitchell, who serves on the county health board, said he’ll hate to lose the health director but understands Wood’s decision.
“I wish Leonard the best, and he’s done a great job for Rowan County,” Mitchell said. “I’m glad we’re not losing him to another health department. I’m glad he decided to finish out his career with Rowan County.”
Wood said he doesn’t have any definite plans for retirement, but he’s excited about it, especially because his wife is retiring at the same time.
“I’ll probably lay low for a while, visit with my grandchildren a little more and travel a little bit,” he said. “After a period of time, if opportunities come up to do things that are beneficial to the community, I certainly look forward to that.”
Wood said his replacement will face new challenges as the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law also known as “Obamacare,” is implemented. It’s hard to tell right now what the impact will be for public health departments, he said.
The new director also will face many of the same questions and problems that Wood has, including how to maintain needed services when budgets are tight.
In addition to public health services and nutrition programs, the county health director also oversees the environmental health and animal control divisions.
Wood praised the staff members in all areas of the department as dedicated employees, saying he has enjoyed working with them.
“I can’t say enough good things about the department, the county and the whole area,” Wood said. “It’s a great place for community collaboration, and I hope the new director will continue that collaborative effort.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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