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Health officer eases into retirement

After 28 years in St. Croix County's Public Health office, Health Officer Wendy Kramer is retiring.

Kramer said she plans to travel a bit with her husband, Dale, and volunteer with various organizations now that she has some free time. She also hopes to spend time with her kids and grandchildren in her retirement.

"I'm also a master gardener, so I'm going to take care of my garden more," she said. The Baldwin resident also plans to help with the newly established community garden there.

As her final days tick away, Kramer said she looks back fondly at her tenure with the county. She had a taste of being a public health nurse in 1976-77 before taking a job at the American Heritage Care Center in Hammond as a nurse.

She decided she preferred the work as a public health nurse and eventually landed a position with the county in 1984.

"I've had a good experience with the county ever since," she said. "I've enjoyed working with the community and helping to change people's behaviors."

Since rejoining the county, Kramer has gained promotions to public health supervisor in 1993 and health officer four years ago.

As the county's health officer, Kramer said she works with various partners (health care professionals, hospitals, schools, etc.) to assist residents in their quest to stay healthy. A key part of her role has been advocating for policy changes that lead to healthier choices and lifestyles.

"I like the work," she said. "You can have a greater impact when you look at an entire population rather than just the individuals."

As she prepares to leave her post, Kramer said she will miss her co-workers and the community partners that she's had much contact with through the years.

"I'll miss the relationships," she said.

She won't miss having to worry about declining budgets that make the job of public health workers, and all county employees, more challenging.

"Financial stability will be a big challenge in the future," she said. "Adequate funding for this work will be critical."

Kramer said the "transformation grant" the county received will help local officials impact overall public health in many positive ways, but long-term funding will remain a concern.

The other thing she won't miss about her job is all the email she receives, Kramer admitted.

"Email is a good thing," she laughed. "But sometimes it's information overload."

Kramer's retirement officially begins at the end of the month.