It could be a while before Dr. Ron Aldridge, ex-CEO of Health Services of North Texas, will get over the fact that he actually retired.
“I still say ‘we,’ talking like I am still CEO,” he said. “I still have not gotten over that.”
Aldridge, 69, spent 12 1/2 years with the nonprofit agency before retiring May 17.
Aldridge said he thought it was a good time to leave the agency, which is committed to making a difference in the quality of life of underserved people in North Texas.
It didn’t start that way in 1988.
The agency was founded as AIDS/Denton Inc. by a volunteer group that saw a need for education and support services for people with HIV and their families.
“We have grown our community’s medical center, our mental health program, our guardianship program that looks after people that can’t take care of themselves,” Aldridge said.
The agency now serves nearly 2,500 people, and that number has been increasing by about 120 new clients each month.
“We want to be the medical home for people; we are there for everybody,” Aldridge said.
In 2010, the agency acquired the assets of the People’s Clinic of Denton County.
Two years later, the center became a federally qualified health center, receiving a $595,833 grant to help improve its services.
“People misunderstand that they think getting a lot more money will help you see more people. The money is not to see more people.” Aldridge said. “The money is to expand resources. They help pay for our electronic medical records system and help us update our computers, and help us pay for a few more staff people, so we could take care of more patients.”
Aldridge said the work he conducted at the agency was a staff effort, which includes the appointment of Doreen Rue as the new CEO of the agency.
“She and I have worked together for the past 12 years and a half,” he said. “She is part of my success. You have to surround yourself with experts, so it has been a seamless transition.”
Rue said she knew Aldridge would retire one day, although she was not looking forward to seeing him go because she valued his knowledge.
“Ron has been a tremendous asset to us,” she said.
“He believes in the agency and the community. He has prepared us for the growth in the agency, and he will be greatly missed.”
Denton County Judge Robert Ramirez, who is president of the organization’s board, said he knew Aldridge wanted to retire four years ago and was working on a plan to help the agency move forward.
“He took over an agency that was struggling and turned it around,” Ramirez said. “He turned it into the best nonprofit in Denton County. He has a great vision.”
Prior to joining Health Services of North Texas in November 2000, Aldridge was executive director of the Child and Family Guidance Centers in Dallas for nine years. He also served as social work service chief at William Beaumont Army Medical Center and served as regional social work consultant to the Army surgeon general for his six-state medical treatment area.
Aldridge is licensed in Texas as a clinical social worker, licensed in marriage and family therapy and is a certified guardian.
Aldridge has been married to Cheryl Aldridge, a pediatric nurse, for 47 years. They moved to Denton from Argyle eight years ago. They have two daughters, Danielle Aldridge and Michelle Morris, both of whom are clinical social workers.
Born in Canada, Aldridge has received numerous awards throughout his career. In 1997, he was honored by the Dallas Unit of the National Association of Social Workers as social worker of the year. In 2002, he received the Public Health Advocate of the Year Award from the Denton County Health Department and was selected 2004 social worker of the year by the Denton County Unit of the National Association of Social Workers. That same year, he was named social worker of the year for the state of Texas.
By Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment, Aldridge served as a member of the State Board of the Community Resource Coordination Groups of Texas and the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse advisory board. In 2011, he also received the National Association of Social Workers’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
On April 2, he was awarded the lifetime award for contributions to social work education by Texas Woman’s University. Before leaving Health Services of North Texas, he was made a life member of the agency, the fifth person to be honored.
Aldridge said he will miss the staff, the board and the agency’s clients. But he will continue to volunteer his time to the Health Services of North Texas Foundation’s board because he wants to continue supporting the agency.
“It is just something about a university town,” he said. “I love Denton.”
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.