Kosciusko Health Officer Dr. Remington stepping down after 30 years

Dr. Remington speaks during a new conference at Warsaw City Hall during the pandemic. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Kosciusko County’s Health Officer — Dr. William Remington — is stepping down after nearly 30 years of public service.

The 65-year old physician who had a birthday in October told News Now Warsaw Thursday afternoon that part of the reason he’s resigning is a desire to lighten his professional workload and spend more time with an ailing family member.

Remington’s resignation is effective at the end of the December.

“This is the perfect time to hand it off to a pair of fresh wings,” Remington said.

He said he felt an obligation to stay on as the Covid-19 pandemic waned. At the same time, he knows enough to realize another health crisis could step up without warning.

“I really needed to step away before the next big … public health crisis. They’re always a bit consuming and they don’t announce themselves ahead,” he said.

He said he’s enjoyed the work since being recommended for the post by former health officer Dr. David Haines in 1994.

Remington stepped into the public eye and asserted numerous policy decisions during the the Covid-19 pandemic including ones involving public schools that riled some folks. He  also participated in regular public updates promoted city Warsaw city government that continued regularly for months.

The county health department also took on a major role.

The health department was heavily involved in a public testing initiative, a public information campaign and a large-scale immunization program.

Remington said he’s especially proud of how the public health community responded to the pandemic and the mass immunization efforts that continued for months.

“I asked my staff to do something they had never done before,” he said. “We had community volunteerism of professionals that I had never seen.”

The community, he said, struggled like much of the nation in dealing with a new illness.

“Nobody did it perfectly, but I am very proud of how our community pulled resources together and I think we did get the right people in the room and gave out public messaging that was helpful for a while until … we were two years into it and it was just stirring up more trouble than helping,” he said.

County health officers serve as the chief executive to health boards and provide guidance on public health policy decisions.

Another accomplishment he pointed to was the response following a tuberculous outbreak about 20 years ago. That led to establishment of a communicable disease program, which a lot of county health departments don’t provide, he said.

“It took a horrible event to really demonstrate the potential threat. Fortunately, the commissioners and council years ago … gave the thumbs up to adding a full-time position,” Remington said. “That just quietly hums in the background and keeps us out of trouble as a county in more ways than people realize.”

County Health Administrator Bob Weaver expressed appreciation for Remington’s leadership over the years.

Remington visited the county health department regularly on Wednesdays to exchange updates.

Weaver said many aspects of the department were expanded under Remington’s tenure, including construction of the K21 Health Pavilion, which brought together numerous programs under one roof on what was originally known as the Kosciusko Community Hospital campus.

One improvement Weaver said Remington pushed for was establishing a certified water laboratory in the department that opened the door for testing of surface water and drinking water for bacteria levels.

And Weaver pointed to another attribute.

“He was a tremendous communicator,” Weaver said. “Even when he’s talking about something really complicated he can make you understand it.”

Remington — in turn — described Weaver as a quiet and wise administrator who helped him understand the workings of county government early on.

“He’s been a good, steady hand administratively, which made it easier for me to be the health officer … that’s been a highlight — working with him.”

Remington also praised Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer who took a lead in the government response during the pandemic.

“He was the best,” Remington said. “He knew how to get people moving. He had that executive capacity — that big chested CEO kind of thing — to bring the people together.”