Donna Oeding set to retire from the Dubois County Health Dept. Wednesday

Dubois County (NNDC):

Donna Oeding Administrative Director of the County Health Department after 40 years of service.

Donna graduated from Jasper High School in 1974 and went on to Indiana University with the goal of becoming a physical therapist. But with a 3.4 grade point average, she was not accepted into the school’s physical therapy program when she applied after her sophomore year.

She was devastated, didn’t know what in the world she was going to do, she recalled.

Donna received a letter regarding the IU School of Medicine’s environmental health program.  I threw it on the counter and was about to throw it in the wastebasket, when her dad, who was vice president of one of the factories here, said, she needed to think about doing this.

There were a lot of new regulations on the table and her father explained that the environment is going to be the big field for a long time in the future. That was Donna’s reason for going into environmental health.

She graduated from the IU School of Medicine in 1978 with a degree in environmental health science. The day after her graduation, she started working at the Dubois County Health Department as an environmental health specialist. She stayed in that position until she was appointed administrative director in 2001.

A lot has happened in the 40 years she has been with the department. She has seen changes in food laws and air quality rules. The department has handled rabies breakouts, asbestos issues, food borne illness issues and even 2016’s avian influenza outbreak, among other things.

Donna was involved in the many sewer expansions that happened in the 1980s and 1990s stemming from a new requirement that houses connect to the sewer system if they were within 200 feet of a sewer line. “That was a new and important change.Many people were against it. They had a septic system and didn’t understand why they had to switch.

Things have changed in-house as well, with data collecting and reporting to the state, and budget issues that have required some positions to be eliminated. Despite all that, the department expanded from three people when Donna started, to the 13 full-time people who work there now.

Donna loved her job but never expected the twists and and turns her career would take.

Donna knows that it was always God’s plan for her to stay in Dubois County. By the time she was a senior in college, she was dating a guy from Purdue University and was planning to move to the East Coast, because he was working in New Jersey.

She finally decided to take the job with the health department, thinking it would be a good start to her career.  She then met Mike through this job.

That would be her future husband, Mike Oeding, who worked for the City of Jasper’s park and recreation department. He was responsible for the city pool, which Donna inspected to make sure it had proper water samples. The couple subsequently married in 1979 and had two children: Katie Hopf and Andy.

She remarked that had she gone out east, I would have never met Mike, which led me to stay here,” Donna said.

Mike’s passing in 2015 is part of the reason Donna decided to retire. While she has no specific plans for retirement, she does plan to visit her two grandchildren, who live in Minnesota.  The other reason is that “it’s time,” she said.

It’s time for new people to come in with new ideas, she said, and I wish them all the best of luck.

The new administrative director, Jo Ann Spaulding, has been shadowing Donna since early October, and will fully take the reins of the job on Nov. 1.

An open house for Donna will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the health department, 1187 S. St. Charles St., Jasper. The public is invited to attend.


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