RANDOLPH COUNTY — As Randolph County health director, Susan Hayes has presided over an array of projects that led to the transformation of the county’s public health.

The most extensive, and arguably most impactful, chapter of her career will be her last. Hayes announced earlier this month that she will be retiring effective June 1.

“I have been in public health for 34 years. Besides my faith and my family, it has been the highlight of my life,” Hayes said at the regular May meeting of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners.

Having begun her career with the county in 1985, she rose through the ranks of her current department and, in 2016, assumed the role of health director, a role she’s held for the last five years. Hayes and Chairman Darrell Frye, who has served as commissioner each year Hayes has been with the county, both noted the fact that Randolph has enjoyed remarkable continuity with its department heads.

Frye mentioned that the professionalism of its leaders made turnover minimal.

“It has been my pleasure to be the health director,” said Hayes, who referenced George Elliott’s decision to hire her as nutrition program director as the springboard to her career. “We haven’t had a lot of health directors in Randolph County.”

The public health board is charged with the responsibility of hiring a new health director for the county. Commissioner Hope Haywood serves as the representative of the board of commissioners who will help to find a replacement for Hayes. Haywood commended the retiring health director for her “stellar, outstanding service during a tumultuous time” and credited her with “keeping steady to the course to fight for the health of” Randolph County residents.

That praise comes on the heels of her service for the last 14 months during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Under the leadership Hayes provided during the pandemic, Randolph County Public Health established testing facilities, vaccination clinics and updated residents and county officials regularly at meetings and through press releases, as well as social media.

In the era immediately preceding COVID-19, Hayes spearheaded a number of other high-profile projects that commanded public attention. In part due to the advocacy of Hayes, Randolph County Animal Services became a standalone department in July of 2019 and a tobacco ban on county property was established in January 2019.

The board of health voted unanimously to adopt a rule prohibiting the use of tobacco, and Hayes presented information to commissioners to lobby their support. According to data Hayes provided at the time, from 2012 to 2016, 776 cases of lung cancer in Randolph County were reported, 545 fatalities among them.

The proposal to ban the use of tobacco on government property was met with opposition from members of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners, other county officials and residents. Hayes stood before the board in several contentious meetings over the last five years, unflinching in her resolve to support causes she believed promoted the safety of county residents.

In turn, the ban indeed prohibited smoking and other uses of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on local government and municipal property. Determination to make the county safer is largely driven by her loyalty to the county in which she was raised. The assembling of her team was always of paramount importance to Hayes, who expressed her appreciation for their contributions.

“I moved here when I was 9 years old and it’s always been home ever since,” Hayes said. “We have a phenomenal staff, and they work as hard as anybody in the county. I am tremendously proud of each and every one.”

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.