Door County Public Health Officer Susan Powers, a key leader of the county’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, will retire in June.
She announced her retirement Monday at a meeting of the county’s Health and Human Services Board. It is effective June 24.
Powers has led Door County Public Health’s pandemic-related measures over the past two years, including county-wide Covid-19 testing and vaccination programs, contact-tracing efforts and coordination with schools and businesses to limit the spread of the disease as much as possible.
She also has been among the faces of the peninsula’s response to the pandemic, guiding public messaging about Covid-19 precautions and safety.
Powers had only been on the job as Public Health officer for about a year and a half before the pandemic started, she said. Her first year, she said, was challenging because she only had about a week of overlap with her predecessor before taking over.
“I just put too darn many miles on in the last two years,” Powers said.
Powers said she gave notice of her retirement well in advance to ensure a smooth transition. She will take a few weeks of paid time off before June 24, she said, and plans to focus in her remaining time on helping Public Health transition back to some of its non-pandemic functions. New cases of Covid-19 in the county have dropped dramatically in recent weeks after spiking in January.
The Health and Human Services Board on Monday voted to approve starting the process of refilling Powers’s position, with board members saying they were sad to see her go.
Door County Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Heise, who sits on the board as a community member, said he’ll miss working with Powers.
“We got to know each other well when we started doing the Facebook lives (broadcasts of Covid-19 community conversations), and I have never seen someone so stalwart and really being able to put up with a lot of nonsense that was going on,” Heise said. “Politics is not an easy thing to be involved in. Boy, she managed to get through that with — I don’t know how. I learned so much being around her.”
County Supervisor and board member Vinni Chomeau said she appreciated Powers’s kindness, humility and helpfulness throughout the pandemic.
Powers said she thinks a Public Health staff member might apply for the position. She and county Health and Human Services Director Joe Krebsbach noted that hiring in the nursing and public health areas is difficult right now.
County Supervisor Megan Lundahl, the board’s chair, said she hopes that if another pandemic or similar event arises, the new Public Health officer “will be treated with the respect that the position deserves.”