SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- Clay Goddard, the Director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, announced he will be retiring from the Health Department at the end of February.
According to a press release, Goddard will be moving to the Missouri Foundation for Health as the Senior Director of Public Health Transformation. During this role, Goddard will draw on relationships with local and state public health leaders, knowledge of Missouri’s public health system, and national best practices to move Missouri toward a model public health system.
“Clay has been a consummate professional throughout his career in public health and certainly throughout the course of this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.” “His steady hand, compassionate leadership and brave decision making throughout the pandemic has not only provided me with support as Mayor, but also undoubtedly saved lives. I wish him the best and am very thankful he is staying in the state of Missouri and continuing to focus on ways to improve community health.”
Goddard has served the Springfield-Greene County Health Department for 25 years.
“I knew within a weekI’dd stumbled into the career I wanted for the rest of my life,” Goddard said.” “Public health is the perfect intersection of public policy and direct outcomes—you get to help people and see the result of that play out in their lives and in the health of the community you serve.”
Goddard’s official last day is February 26, and Springfield-Greene County Health Department Assistant Director Katie Towns will serve as acting director upon his departure. The City of Springfield will then begin a search to find a permanent replacement.
During an interview with Ozarks First Reporter David Chasanov, Goddard answered these questions.
What went into Goddard’s decision to retire? “I’ve been passionate about public health and ways to improve public health departments for a long time… I also realized that the field of public health has not lived up to its promise. I believe that has really been laid bare a little bit during the pandemic. When [Missouri Foundation for Health] came about, it really did seem like a good, logical next step for my career. I’m looking forward to bringing my skills and my experiences, and my relationships to bear and see if we can find a way to do better as a public health system in Missouri. I think we’ve got some room to improve.”
Goddard says he’s not exhausted at all from the field. Instead, he’s “energized.” He’s been at the health department for 25 years, and “I may not look it, but I’m still relatively young. I feel like I’ve got more to offer. I’m ready for some more challenges. I’m looking forward to broadening the scope of the work that I do.”
Public health not living up to its promise: “We’ve been under-funded for the better part of a decade… there are structural issues; there are a lot of places that we can improve the field of public health. There’s a lot of inequity across the state of Missouri. Where you live matters. We don’t want a system, in my opinion, that is structured that way.”
Was it a hard decision? “It’s never really an easy decision when I’ve been here for 25 years. I love Springfield. I’m an MSU Bear. I’ve got family here. I’ve got an incredible team of passionate public health professionals working by my side every day. That does make it a difficult decision, but I felt that the opportunity and promise of this position and working with an entity as wonderful as the Missouri Foundation for Health was just an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up. Plus, when you have an organization with this much depth and this many people who are here for the right reasons, you recognize you are leaving the organization in capable hands. They are going to be able to finish this vaccination stretch out strong.”
What did he enjoy on his 25-year journey? “The weird things that I’ve had to deal with… monkey bites to anthrax to Ebola, then you cap it all off with a global pandemic of this magnitude. It has just been an honor to be able to work here. I cannot express how fortunate I feel to be able to continue the heritage of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department even for a short time.”