Randolph County health director retiring after 34 years in public health

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RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Susan Hayes has spent more than three decades fighting to protect people’s health.

It started with nutrition, then making parts of Randolph County tobacco-free. And of course, battling a global pandemic

“It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears. A lot of sleepless nights. I’m pleased with where we are right now,” Hayes said.

Since the age of 9, Hayes has lived in Randolph County and built a career here.

“I served in Randolph County for 34 years. I’ve seen a lot in my time,” Hayes said.

She calls the shots when it comes to the health of the county. Her decisions have not always been popular.

“All the things we’ve done have been because we want to protect people, and not to tell them what to do,” she said.

Randolph County was on red alert during a good portion of the COVID crisis. Hayes had to navigate her team and thousands of people through it.

“We vaccinated thousands of folks. We have worked tremendously hard to do our case management and contact tracing. So, it has been more than personal. It’s been my life for the last 14 months,” she said.

COVID has gotten better in the county. 30 percent of people have had their first shot. Almost 28 percent are fully vaccinated.

“Diseases will never go away. After COVID it’ll be something else,” she said.

Starting June 1, this health director will be doing something else.

“I’ve been trying all morning not to get emotional. I tried to imagine what it’s going to feel like waking up Monday morning and not coming here,” Hayes said.

While it’s difficult, she knows it’s time.

“I’m leaving the county in a great spot. So, I feel like I can start retirement based on where we are right now.”

Hayes has full confidence in the team she is saying goodbye to.

“I have left the county in good shape they have extremely good leadership, and there is no doubt in my mind that public health will continue even better than it was before,” she said.

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