A hint for a celebratory gathering – make sure the honoree attends.
Former Gulf County health officer Doug Kent recently received a lifetime achievement award for his work in environmental health.
He just didn’t receive it the night it was awarded since he was not in attendance at the annual dinner for the Florida Environmental Health Association.
“I had no idea, I didn’t even know I was nominated,” said Kent, the current Bay County health officer. “Nobody mentioned it to me and I didn’t even attend the meeting.
“I told a friend of mine that was a meeting I would have liked to attend.”
The award, the Billy G. Tennant Award, recognizes the accomplishments, over a long period of time, of environmental health professionals.
Kent has over 30 years with the Florida Department of Health, all in Gulf and Bay counties, and has maintained his environmental health director certification even after being first appointed health department administrator in Gulf County in 1997.
“I still work in environmental health,” Kent said. “I’ve kept my certification. I visit the schools. I have a lot of projects going on.
“I think the staff is proud to have an administrator who knows what they have to do.”
Kent started with the FDOH in environmental health in Bay County and spent 17 years in Gulf County as a supervisor and then director of environmental health before moving up to administrator.
He established the one of the first underground storage tank program in Gulf County and brought same-day permitting while encouraging education and public outreach through the promotion of an array of web-based services.
“That is the key, education and letting the people know why you are doing what you are doing,” Kent said. “It’s about public access and the public understanding what you are doing.”
He was also instrumental in the creation of community gardens on several public schools.
In Bay County, he and staff have worked to provide septic tank locations for all properties on the internet.
He also has annual meetings with septic system contractors on rule changes and permitting issues and initiated the county’s first project for working with community partners to identify and address residents’ environmental concerns.
He has initiated community outreach into an underserved community and assisted law enforcement in the disposal of dilapidated vehicles and cleaning of neighborhood trash.
Programs have also included urging residents to get out and walk.
The Bay County Health Department has earned a 96.8 percent composite annual score on a state evaluation of programs for onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems and earned the fourth highest score in the state on an evaluation of health programs.
“You look at the years of your life and people recognizing you; that is appreciated,” Kent said. “You work for the public and your colleagues recognize the work you do for the people; that is really appreciated.”