Record editorial: Former Health Director Rich Bullough stepped up when our community needed him most
It’s a fair bet that the majority of Summit County residents didn’t know Rich Bullough’s name at the beginning of 2020.
Bullough by that time had led the Summit County Health Department for a decade, but his position, while important, was not as visible as other leadership roles at the County Courthouse.
Then the first known COVID-19 case in Summit County appeared on March 11, thrusting Bullough into the spotlight as the head of the county’s response to the pandemic. He became a household name within days and spent the ensuing year and a half shepherding the county government — and the community — through the crisis.
The pandemic, of course, is not yet over. But Bullough’s role in combating it is. He retired from his post as health director last month, and Summit County residents, who now are well familiar with his name and work, should be grateful for his dedication to protecting our community.
In the face of a generational public health emergency, Bullough demonstrated remarkable leadership, courage and judgment. His swift actions, from implementing a stay-at-home order last spring to requiring residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces, helped limit the spread of the coronavirus until vaccines became widely available this spring.
While Bullough’s actions also earned him his fair share of detractors, who viewed the coronavirus-fighting measures as an overreach, our community would certainly be worse off had someone less capable been in his position when the pandemic struck. Summit County has weathered the crisis better than almost any other place in the state. That’s taken the contributions of everyone, from other Health Department staffers to ordinary residents, but it was Bullough who set the tone and ensured Summit County was proactive in the battle against the virus.
Bullough, like any good leader, declines to take credit, instead giving it to those working underneath him. And in a recent interview with The Park Record, Bullough said the Health Department remains in good hands under his successor, Phil Bondurant, who previously served as his deputy.
Bondurant has big shoes to fill, especially given the circumstances. But we believe he will also rise to the occasion as the coronavirus, spurred by the delta variant, continues to affect our lives this fall and winter.
In the meantime, we join the residents Bullough admirably served in wishing him well in retirement. After more than a decade at the helm of the Health Department, capped by a grueling year and half that required immense personal sacrifice, he’s more than earned it.
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