SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Upon the announcement of Clay Goddard’s retirement from his position as Springfield-Greene County Health Director, Ozarks First asked him 10 questions to reflect on his personal life and career.
What did you want to do before you went into public health?
I’m an accidental tourist to public health, I was going to, when I got my masters degree, go back into the military. I’d been in the coast guard for four years, I was going to go into the air force and work as a healthcare administrator in their healthcare system. An internship here steered me away from that, and here I am 25 years later.
What made you finally decide you wanted to pursue a career in public health?
It was that internship. The first week here I knew I had to work in this field, it was going to be my passion.
What’s your favorite holiday?
As a kid, I loved the 4th of July, and still do, but now that I’ve got a grandchild I think I’m going to transition to Christmas. There’s something about little kids and Christmas that just makes me happy.
How will you tell your grandchildren the story of 2020?
Well, you know, I’ve got a pandemic grandchild. She was born in the middle of it. I’m going to tell her about how brave her mom was to work while she was in the womb and just tell her about all the experiences we’ve had. It’s been an incredible journey.
What legacy do you want to leave with your career?
I don’t think the legacy is in men and women, I think the legacy is in institutions. For me, the priority was leaving the institution better than I found it, and I found an incredible organization, and I do think I’ve been successful in making it better. I would just hope people who are successors to me and this chair continue to make this organization a better organization.
Do you like homemade food or takeout better?
I love home-cookin’. Ozarks soul food; that’s my favorite.
Do you get recognized in the grocery store?
A few times, the masks have helped. That’s been one of the unintended benefits of masking is fewer people recognize me.
What’s one thing a stranger told you this past year you’ll remember?
I’ve got so many little things, but just people stopping me at the grocery store saying “thank you.” They have no idea how little gestures like that have buoyed my spirits. I think the same can be said for staff that work here. Those little kind gestures can sometimes turn a terrible day into a bright one. I wanna thank people who have taken the time to do that.
What’s a misconception about being the public health director?
I think there’s a misconception that we have the ability to track data in real-time. A lot of time data we get is a couple of days or even a week old. We don’t have quite as much real-time intelligence as some people suspect we do.
Any vacation plans once the pandemic winds down?
I’ve been talking to my wife about that, and we’re going to pick something with sand and ocean. We just don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like, whether it’s in the United States or the Caribbean. Eventually, we’re going to get a bit of a break, but in the meantime, I’m one of those guys who likes to work so I’m going to keep plugging away.