New Camden County Health Department Admin ready to take on role following challenging year
It’s fair to say that, among the many jobs challenged by the rise of COVID-19, county health departments were near the top. Residents and media alike looked for updates from the departments on a constant basis, while department workers tried their hardest to keep up with the demand.
Heading into 2021, longtime Camden County Health Department Administrator Bee Dampier decided to retire. With this decision, Assistant Administrator Stephanie Dake officially stepped into the role of Administrator in January.
Born in Climax Springs, Dake has been a lifelong lake resident. She started with the Camden County Health Department in 1998, the same year as Dampier. She has been in the role of Assistant Administrator since 2008 and was moved into her current position as of January 2021.
Dake says 2020 was the hardest year she and the department as a whole had ever faced. Even so, she felt that they held together despite the challenges. With some days reaching up to 12-14 hour shifts to meet demand, she says a toll was taken physically and mentally on all.
“As a group, we worked well together through the year,” Dake said. “We wanted to do our job and do it the best we could.”
She says the line of communication to the public was tricky from the very start of the pandemic. She says that it felt like every time they would be a public update or announcement, the relevant information would change within a day’s time.
Looking forward in 2021, she says that her entire department is hoping and praying that COVID-19 will soon be a thing of the past. Of course, she admits there is still a long road ahead. Vaccinations throughout the county are helping keep cases at a low point, with the county only having one active hospitalization as of March 9. She says that, in many ways, it feels like a shift in the pandemic is starting to happen.
Though COVID-19 has been the main focal point of the department’s work over the last year, there are many aspects of the job Dake is excited about. First and foremost, she hopes that further control over the pandemic will lead the department back to community-driven events. Many events, such as back-to-school fairs, daycare programs and more were suspended while the county focused on the pandemic. She says that she hopes this aspect of the job, more than anything else, can resume in 2021.
“We’re community-minded,” Dake said “We want to serve the people in this area to the best ability that we can.”
Dake says that she is confident in her ability to lead the department and says she learned many lessons working with Dampier over the past two decades. She says they discussed many new program ideas and ways to generally improve that she hopes to one day implement. Dampier will still be working with the department on a part-time basis.
One thing that Dake says has remained consistent over the years is her desire to remain with the county. She says she has rarely even thought about a change in career, as the community has always been supportive of the work the health department does. Looking ahead, Dake wants to continue going above and beyond for the Camden County community.