When the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting everything down, Mike Napier and his team were ramping up.
The recently retired health officer for the Florida Department of Health-Pasco County led efforts during the pandemic, building on partnerships the health department had already established within the community, to help prevent the spread of COVID and to respond to those sickened in the pandemic.
Napier collaborated closely with Pasco County, Pasco County Schools and a network of local health providers and community organizations.
He was immersed in the work of keeping the public informed and creating strategies for making vaccinations available and responding to ever-changing conditions.
Napier’s efforts were acknowledged by the Pasco County Commission during its Aug. 22 meeting, when it adopted a resolution honoring Napier.
The resolution noted that Napier focused on organizational performance and fostered community collaboration.
He worked to provide the first Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services on a school campus in Pasco, according to the resolution.
The resolution also cited Napier’s selection as the “Pasco County Public Servant of the Year” by the West Pasco Board of Realtors, in 2022, “bestowed upon him for his exemplary service during the COVID-19 pandemic by working closely with the BOCC (Pasco County Commission) and Pasco County School District to provide testing and vaccines.”
Also, the resolution adds that Napier “demonstrated his leadership outside of Pasco County, having been the President of the Florida Association of County Health Officers, President of the Florida Public Health Association, and President of the Florida Association of County Health Department Business Administrators, and accepting the added responsibility of interim Health Officer for Osceola County in 2018 while still maintaining his duties as Health Officer in Pasco County.”
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey brought forth the resolution for the board’s action.
“What an inspirational leader you were for this county,” Starkey said, mentioning that Napier was so highly regarded, he was temporarily on loan to the state, in Tallahassee, because of his expertise.
“You were such a leader during COVID. I don’t think any of us will forget, or will ever want to go through again, what we did for that year, or year and a half.
“I’m just grateful that you were here during that time,” Starkey said.
“I just want to congratulate you on such a successful career,” she added.
Commissioner Ron Oakley agreed: “Mike, you’ve done a great job. You’ve done so much for us.”
Commission Chairman Jack Mariano heaped on praise.
“The things you’ve done — not only COVID, but hepatitis, when we had outbreaks,” Mariano said.
Napier’s public awareness campaign led to a significant reduction of hepatitis cases, the county board chairman said.
“You’ve had a great career. You’ve worked hard all of your life. You’ve been very successful. Now, it’s time to enjoy it all,” Mariano told Napier.
Napier responded by sharing the credit for his success with the 160 employees at the health department.
“A leader is only as good as those who follow,” Napier said.
He reminded commissioners that the health department continues to need the county’s support.
“COVID was the latest (major health concern). There is going to be something else,” Napier said.
He told commissioners that much of what goes on at the health department never reaches public view because it works with hospitals, day cares and other places on disease interventions and to prevent outbreaks from getting worse.
He thanked the county board for its support and also voiced appreciation for the help his department has received from the Pasco community.
“We have a great county in Pasco County, and they’re willing to partner, whether it’s the sheriff’s office, or whether it’s the tax collector, the property appraiser. Everyone’s been very supportive of what we do here,” he said.
County board members told Napier they’re confident that his successor, Trang L. Chitakone, who was his assistant county health administrator, will perform well in the role.
Published September 20, 2023