Health dept. director resigns

Hunter Herbaugh Ranger-review Staff Writer
Sunday, January 17, 2021
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Timber Dempewolf

After 16 years serving the community, Dawson County Health Department director Timber Dempewolf is resigning from the department. She says there are several factors that contributed to her decision to step down but feels it needs to be done to bring balance back to her life. She will remain in the position until Feb. 3.

Dempewolf’s decision comes at a time when public health is at the forefront of the public conscience. With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, the health department has played a central role in the county’s response, especially now that vaccines are being distributed.

Dempewolf noted that her resignation shouldn’t impact the rollout of vaccines in the county, as Glendive Medical Center will primarily be administering the vaccines.

“(The vaccine effort) will still continue on. We’re making transitions. Most of the vaccines will be distributed by GMC,” she said.

Dempewolf joined the health department in 2004, eventually rising to take the director position in 2013. In the time that she has served the community, she has seen a lot of change when it comes to community and individual health. From legislative changes to people adopting healthier behaviors, as well as community developments that promote healthier lifestyles, Dempewolf said it has all helped change healthcare in the county.

“Changes I have seen in public health over the past 16 years include passing the clean indoor air act, decreased tobacco use and increased access to care. Many of the interventions public health implements are about preventing disease from ever occurring, making the benefits less obvious. For example, the heart disease that never developed because physical activity was promoted by making the community more walkable through the development of trails or building sidewalks and adding lighting,” she said.

While there is currently no one confirmed as interim director of the department, Dempewolf said that she has made sure the remaining members of the department are ready to take on extra responsibilities until a new director is found.

“It has been my practice as a department head to always have backup for each person. With this in place we to make a smooth transition. Current staff will take on my job duties as it relates to the program areas they work in,” Dempewolf said.

Likewise, the county commissioners are expecting to take on some of the department’s administrative responsibilities while they are without a director.

“Mainly, we’re trying to plan for (the director) position not being filled right away, obviously. So, (our plan) is to make sure all the back ups are in and we’re administering the grants that are in place and doing the normal daily business is more of an important thing,” said Commissioner Dennis Zander. “She’s going to be truly missed, she has done an outstanding job and she has been a great employee for the citizens of Dawson County.”

While she may not be serving in the same capacity, Dempewolf noted that she will remain in Dawson County and will continue working in healthcare.

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