Public Health Officer Dr. Rachel Wood on Monday afternoon announced her plan to retire in February after 13 years with Lewis County.
“I may get emotional here,” Wood told county commissioners in the Lewis County Board of Health meeting Monday. “The COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe since November 2019, and our world has changed unexpectedly. As a local public health officer, I’ve been working a lot more than I expected.”
Wood went on to thank her colleagues, and stated her intention to step down if replacement can be found before February.
“I came here in 2007, and the flood happened on my birthday in 2007, and I saw the strength and resilience of this county,” she said. “These are trying times still without certainty, and I appreciate the dedication and care of countless individuals who are working to help their fellow human beings.”
Wood said she is unsure what she’ll be doing after her retirement, but wants to “keep helping people to improve health in mind, body, and spirit.”
“Meanwhile, I intend to rest a bit and focus on my own health and my connections with friends and family,” she said.
At the meeting, Lewis County parents attended to protest distance learning and what they characterized as an inadequate plan to reopen schools laid out by Lewis County Public Health and Social Services. However, upon Wood’s announcement, the parents shifted gears, thanking Wood for her work.
“I’m no longer interested in grilling the health officer,” Eric Brooke said. “I wanna say thank you from the community … nobody ever expects a pandemic, and you’ve done a great job so far.”
Alicia Howard, who has urged Wood and other county officials to push for in-person learning, thanked Wood as well, saying she is well-respected by the community.
“From a parent’s standpoint, we understand that you are in the most difficult spot in Lewis County,” Howard said. “We don’t envy your position … so thank you for your work with the county.”