MONDAY, Aug. 22 —Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail will retire in February, she has informed the county Board of Commissioners.
“I have had strong feelings about not leaving our health department team, the Ingham County community, and the Board of Commissioners until I felt I had done everything I could to continue to provide leadership during this challenging and unprecedented time,” Vail said in a letter to Chair Bryan Crenshaw. “I am feeling confident at this time that we will have navigated our way through the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic by the time I retire.”
As health officer, Vail has led the Ingham County Health Department for more than eight years. Vail, 61, is a microbiologist who led the Kalamazoo County Health Department for the previous seven years. She oversees a department with some 400 employees, a network of health centers and a budget of more than $50 million. Armed with emergency powers under state law, she exerted them at times during the height of the pandemic to crack down on violations. She was initially slow to embrace masks, but became an advocate.
"I found this career in public health to be very satisfying," Vail said today. "This job is more than a job to me,' Vail said today.
Asked what she might do after she leaves the Health Department, she said, "My brain is engaged in thinking about everything — infectious diseases, how they spread, equity, justice. I don't anticipate my brain shutting down around those things."
However, she does not plan to work again full time. She will stay in Lansing with her husband, Mike Eyia, a musician who leads the band Orquestra Ritmo.
She wants to spend more time with her two granddaughters in Kalamazoo, where her daughter lives. She also has a son in Las Vegas.
Soon after her Feb. 17 retirement, she and her husband, daughter and granddaughters will head to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to ski -- part of her plan to "do some traveling and see what other options I might have."
Here is Vail’s letter:
"I have so many mixed emotions as I write to you confirming my intent to retire in 2023. When we spoke about this a few months ago, I did not have a specific date in mind other than sometime in 2023.
"With this communication I am informing you that 1intend to retire on February 17, 2023. I have had strong feelings about not leaving our health department team, the Ingham County community, and the Board of Commissioners until I felt I had done everything I could to continue to provide leadership during this challenging and unprecedented time. I am feeling confident at this time that we will have navigated our way through the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic by the time I retire.
"My other goal was to stay here for the new leaders who have joined the department in 2021 and 2022. As you know, all our Deputy Health Officer positions turned over in that time. I felt personally obligated to be here for them until they felt grounded in their new positions. I am confident in the executive team and their ability to carry forward with the exemplary leadership we have come to expect in our Ingham County Health Department.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time with Ingham County—yes, even the last three years. A once in a lifetime pandemic was certainly not how I anticipated I would finish out my career in public health. With an abundance of pride, I can tell you that we have risen to every challenge, and obviously there were some extremely difficult times and situations. Despite the stress and tremendously difficult circumstances that arose nearly constantly, successfully resolving those big problems has personally been extraordinarily rewarding. It is without a doubt quite the capstone to place on the end of what will be a 20+year career in public health, 16 years as a Health Officer, and nine amazing years here at Ingham County.
"There are not sufficient words to express my gratitude to you, as well as the rest of the Board, for the confidence you have had in me, the constant support I feel from all of you, and for the opportunity to hold this leadership position at the best health department in the State of Michigan. I am sincerely grateful to have been given the opportunity to be your Health Officer. It is hard to believe it has been nine years. Time flies when you have the resources and support to do great things with a great team every single day.
"In closing, I am available and willing to help you in any way I can as you search for and select a new Health Officer. Please let me know how I can be of assistance."
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