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Swannie Jett eager to take health department to next level

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - When told about the changes to the Bullitt County Public Health Department over the past 23 years, Swannie Jett is amazed.

But as the new director of the public health agency, Jett is looking forward to continuing the growth experienced in the past three decades.

Jett, who was recently introduced as the new director, said the challenges he faces are not the same as those experienced by retired leader Ned Fitzgibbons.

The health department has a nice facility and has funding through a countywide tax. Staffing has grown and the department has been able to survive budget cuts from the state.

Now, the former football player for Tennessee State University is looking forward to taking the next step.

“Bullitt County was such a great opportunity,” said Jett. “It was constantly growing and had the ability to expand the staff and its services.”

Jett, a native of Chicago, began his career in the engineering field. He went to the Louisville Metro Health Department in the field of environmental health and arriving in Louisville as a member of the University of Kentucky’s cooperative extension service.

His interest moved more into the management field and into a position where he could help people.

He managed the Outer Loop/Highview health facility just prior to accepting the Bullitt County position. He enjoyed working with people and making sure the proper services were provided.

“It was an opportunity to broaden my leadership abilities,” Jett said of the Bullitt County position.

In working with Fitzgibbons and other staff members over the years, Jett said he did his research on the county before applying for the position.

When the committee interviewed him and he was ultimately notified of his selection, Jett said he was speechless.

“Wow,” Jett said was his first reaction. “I was ecstatic. I really didn’t know what to say. I thought it was such a great opportunity.”

In his first couple of weeks on the job, Jett said he knows there is a great foundation and a very capable staff already on board.

Not needing to re-invent the wheel, Jett said he wants to take some time and learn more about the community. He hopes to meet the leaders and the various agencies that the health department partners with.

In terms of what direction he would like to see the agency take, Jett said he wants to make sure the department is proactive.

“I don’t want to be in the reactive mode,” said Jett.

This involves how the agency prepares itself and the community for future risks.

He wants the agency to do even more in the field of public education on health issues. The county has several health educators already on staff and he said that work is so valuable.

“I want to be on the cutting edge,” said Jett.

The 40-year-old father of three also wants to make sure the agency promotes the services it does provide.

Many people may believe the health department takes care of people who may not have insurance but Jett said it is so much more.

“We need to toot our own horn,” said Jett.

Jett said he is very fortunate to be coming into a situation that is not in a crisis. Instead, he is leading a group of individuals who know the community and care about what they are doing.

“The foundation is in place,” said Jett. “We have a staff that has a tremendous workload and does a wonderful job.”

His only concern remains future funding cuts from the state, especially since much of the agency’s funding relies upon these monies.

“We can’t afford any more cuts,” said Jett.

Jett said he believes the health departments can offer valuable help to people and that is why he loves the field.

“I want to think we were making a difference,” said Jett. “It was very rewarding to work in the health field in Louisville and we do the same thing in Bullitt County.”