Bing Burton is calling it a career.
The Denton County health director will leave his post June 27, marking the end of a 22-year tenure that has seen a sharp rise in county population and innovation alongside illnesses and epidemics, from influenza to mosquito-borne diseases.
“I have loved every minute of it. Part of me wishes I was staying another 22,” Burton said Friday by telephone from New Mexico.
His replacement, Matt Richardson, who once worked for Burton in the health department, will begin work in a few weeks.
Burton said he has been thinking about retiring for a while.
“I just turned 66 in December, so I perhaps could have worked another two or three years,” he said. “I think it’s a good time to move on and see what other things are in store for me. I want to do some traveling, and my golf game needs a lot of work.”
Denton County has grown a lot in 22 years, from the 291,602 residents in 1992 when Burton started with the county to a little more than 691,000 as of last year. With the growth has come demand.
“Public health has grown a great deal,” he said.
The health department had about 30 employees when Burton started; now there are about 130.
“There’s just been a lot of growth — some of that related to the population growth, some of it related to growth in programs,” Burton said.
Burton said the health department did not provide primary care when he arrived and it was something he thought would be good to offer.
“We’re not suited to treat cancer or do surgery, but we can assist a lot of people with minor illnesses,” he said.
Burton said the department managed to get doctors on staff not long after his arrival and added a Lewisville office. That office and other innovations were attained through grants, including primary care grants and immunization grants that enabled the office to expand without putting all the costs on county taxpayers.
“Along the way, the county has provided incredible resources like the new building we’re in right now,” Burton said of the Loop 288 administrative complex.
Burton touted the leadership at the county and in many of its departments, including the budget office, purchasing, auditing and information technology, for helping him run his office smoothly.
Burton said innovations made with electronic medical records will be a boon to the health department going forward.
Looking back on his tenure, Burton said there is not really anything left that he wanted to do.
“Most of the things I wanted to see happen happened,” he said.
Of his prouder achievements, one is technically not a health department innovation.
Burton said he wrote a grant proposal 12 years ago for funding to begin a new clinic that became People’s Clinic, which is separate from the health department. People’s Clinic later became associated with Health Services of North Texas as a federally qualified health center.
“I always felt Denton County needed one, and I was happy to play a small role in that happening,” he said. “I think Denton County has been good to me, and I hope I have provided some important services to Denton County.”
Burton came to the county after working for the state at the public health Region III office in Arlington for 18 years. Before that, the San Angelo native spent four years in the Air Force.
Denton County Judge Mary Horn said there is little doubt in her mind that residents in Denton County are healthier today because of Burton’s efforts.
“I’ve had the opportunity to know Bing and work with him for many years,” Horn said. “There’s a lot of wonderful things that have happened at our health department or things he has advocated for that have improved the health of many of our citizens.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.