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New county health director takes reins

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

The Denton County Health Department’s new director is on the clock.

Matt Richardson, former public health director for the city of Amarillo, rejoined Denton County on Monday. He replaces Bing Burton, who left last month after 22 years with the department. Richardson said he is eager to get to work and continue the success that Burton began.

“Amarillo was a great experience; it’s a great health department, [but] I am really excited about a new opportunity and a kind of enhanced challenge,” Richardson said. “There are so many more things to do with Denton County — a larger staff, larger budget and some opportunities to move it forward.”

Richardson was associated with Denton County from 2002 to 2005. Having remained in contact with Burton over the years, he was aware that Burton’s job was coming open and went for it, Richardson said.

“I’m thrilled I was ultimately selected,” he said.

Richardson said he likes the range of services offered by the department.

“In Amarillo, we didn’t do primary care,” he said. “The scope and scale of services really represents a new challenge and something I was ready for, I think.”

The biggest change he has noted, Richardson said, is the sheer size of Denton County now and its continued growth since his last stint here.

“It’s become a much larger county with a lot more people. That has its own challenges when the population swells to the point this has — community health trends can change,” he said. “We have to think strategically about what that means and make sure core public health services can meet the needs of a swelling population.

“It is our responsibility to anticipate the changes a large population brings and then be poised to respond to those challenges, whether it’s an increase in access for primary care, additional chronic disease intervention, understanding all hazards and threats to public health. ... We have to think about those things so we can be staffed and trained to respond appropriately. Ultimately, it is my responsibility to make that happen.”

Richardson, who was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Norman, Oklahoma, earned his bachelor’s degree in public health from Abilene Christian University. He went on to earn his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of North Texas.

The varied experiences of his career have helped prepare him for his new position, Richardson said.

“I worked in a microbiology lab fresh out of college, worked in corporate health consulting, managed a family practice clinic, operated a nonprofit out of UNT and was the manager of a health department in another part of the state,” he said. “Obviously, with nine years in Amarillo working on statewide committees, working with legislative efforts, [that] primed me for more work in a larger department with more responsibilities, and I hope that is the case here.”

Denton County Judge Mary Horn said Richardson’s background and attention to legislation were among his primary strengths.

“I think he is going to be good for Denton County, not only for experience in the health department but I think he will be good at watching potential legislative efforts, good or bad,” she said. “He can help us analyze those and tell us [how] something will affect Denton County. That’s my concern.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjLewisDRC.