Lawrence-Douglas County health director announces retirement plans

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Another week, another retirement announcement from a top-level health director.

It’s the continuation of a trend seen in local government, specifically happening as the focus on COVID-19 has somewhat faded in recent months.

The most recent announcement comes from Dan Partridge who has been health director for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department for more than 15 years.

Partridge said the pandemic played a role in his decision.

“But it’s more complicated than that,” he said during a Tuesday interview.

He said COVID changed everything in public health. That includes elevating the profile of health department directors and exposing them to greater public criticism.

Resignations and retirements have followed in recent months. Dr. Rex Archer who led the Kansas City Health Department left his position in August 2021. Dr. Samni Areola from the Johnson County, Kansas Health Department announced he would step down on Nov. 4.

Even at the federal level, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave his final White House briefing on Tuesday. He is departing his position in December.

“We’ve all lived through three years of the most horrendous outbreak that we’ve experienced as a society,” Fauci said during that briefing.

“In some ways some of the most gratifying times because you can see the fruits of your labor,” Partridge said. “Even though a good amount of the population thought what you did was totally wrong and totally not helpful, the data said otherwise.”

He said the department saved lives, but now he’s looking forward to what comes next.

“I’m retiring June 15, which is a Thursday. On Saturday, I’m taking my oldest son and his three kids, and we’re headed to Disney World. And so that’s my big step in the future — is time with those kids,” Partridge said.

He also described continuing epidemics in the Lawrence-Douglas County community that need continuing effort, listing things like obesity, addiction, loneliness and suicide.

“One of our senior analysts is working to create a suicide review board to take a look at the coroner data and ask ourselves ‘What can we do to prevent the next one?’” he said.

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