Mary Meisner’s passion for health leaves a legacy in Garfield County
Citizen Telegram Contributor
When Mary Meisner started work at Garfield County Public Health as a registered nurse in 1976, the department had four employees, a nurse and secretary in Glenwood Springs and a nurse and secretary in Rifle.
“I did a little of everything: administration, clinical care, home visits, immunizations, specialty clinics,” she said of her early years in the department.
Garfield County Public Health, for which Meisner served as director for the last 17 years, now has 29 employees in offices throughout the county. Retiring after 37 years of service, Meisner is confident the structure and teamwork she helped establish will continue to move toward a vision for a healthier county.
“We have a dynamic public health team,” she said. “It’s wonderful to know I can step back and know there’s a strong team in place to continue moving forward. I’m very proud of the work we’ve accomplished.”
Meisner has good reason to be proud. Under her direction, the department has implemented numerous county-wide programs to promote healthy living, including the Women, Infants, Children program that ensures low-income pregnant and nursing mothers and children up to age 5 have access to nutritious foods. Another is an environmental health program that recently received a Colorado State University grant to institute air quality monitoring, and the development of the Mountain Family Community Health Center that offers basic health care on an income-based sliding scale for county citizens. The department recently applied for and received a LiveWell Colorado grant, which will provide nine years worth of funds for the department to promote healthy lifestyles throughout the county.
Many of those programs, Meisner pointed out, are the result of collaboration and cooperation between her department and other agencies, organizations and individuals.
“It’s a whole community coalition, a whole group of people are involved,” she said.
Originally from Iowa, Meisner moved to Colorado in 1973, just after she completed her state boards to become a registered nurse. She went to work at Clagett Memorial Hospital in Rifle for three years, and signed on with the county in 1976.
“I’ve been in my profession for 40 years, and the time has flown by. I really have enjoyed my years in public health,” she said. “I’ve always loved serving people. I really enjoyed the children and the seniors. My passion has been to make Garfield County a healthy county.”
That passion to serve, and dedication to her job, earned Meisner a Humanitarian Service Award in April as a “Visionary Leader.”
“It has been an honor to serve,” she said. “We’ve instituted programs and I feel like I’ve made a difference.”
With a little more free time on the horizon, the mother of two and grandmother of five looks forward to doing “a lot of the things I haven’t had time for,” like camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, yoga, visiting family and friends, and spending time with her husband, former Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner, who retired in July 2012.
“I get to retire at home with my best friend,” she said.
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The Garfield County coroner has identified the pedestrian who was killed in a one-vehicle crash on Highway 6 in Rifle Wednesday morning.