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City health chief ready to step down

After nearly 41 years as health commissioner/registered sanitarian of the Ironton City Health Department, Charlie Kouns is ready to say goodbye after he shows his replacement, Aaron Edwards, the ropes.

Edwards, 30, was hired on June 2. The Brown County native has been shadowing Kouns to learn the ins and outs of both the city and the job.

"It is time for me to get out and let the younger generation take over," Kouns said. "I look forward to being able to sleep late. I will still probably wake up early because I have not had to use an alarm clock for years."

Kouns' last official paid day was Friday but he gave up a month's salary to stay on through the end of August to make sure Edwards is ready to hit the ground running.

"I am pretty fortunate to have worked under Charlie," Edwards said. "I really appreciate Charlie donating his time to show me the city. He does not have to do that, but he chose to do so."

Overall, Edwards said he looks forward to helping the people of Ironton.

"I plan to continue what has worked for 40 years," Edwards said. "I will keep up the programs Kouns has done and serve the public the best I can."

The Shawnee State graduate is a registered sanitarian in Ohio and has five years experience at rural health departments in Brown and Adams counties. He is a veteran of the U.S Navy and is working on his master's degree at Marshall University.

Edwards and his wife Andrea have three children - Lauren, 4, and identical twins Sydney and Jenna, 2. The family has lived in Portsmouth for the past 10 years.

Hiring Edwards was an easy decision and a good fit, Kouns said.

"Of all the qualified applicants, Aaron seemed the most adaptable for our environment," Kouns said. "We are very fortunate to have him. He is a good honest young man who will be fair to everyone."

The basic duties of any health department are enforcing the public health laws that govern all food service, restaurants, grocery stores, trailer parks, swimming pools, garbage clean up and anything else that affects the public health, Kouns said.

Edwards will work with the Board of Health and the Ohio Department of Health and other government agencies on all health-related issues.

Since he has been shadowing Kouns, Edwards said he has learned a lot, including the importance of the grass and weed control programs in the city. Since the city has

abandoned homes

where the weeds are high, some health hazards are hidden. High weeds also provide mosquitoes a breeding ground.

Overall, Kouns said he will most miss his daily routines and all the people he has worked with over the years, but said he knows he is leaving the department in good hands.

Edwards said he has been impressed with the rapport and respect Kouns has built with the community.

"I want to mirror and continue that," he said. "I look forward to serving the public and letting them know we are here. If we do not have the answer, we will try to find it for them."

As his tenure comes to an end, Kouns said the best advice he can give to Edwards is to always think things through,

weigh the positive and negative repercussions of everything and do not be afraid to ask for help.

"If he wants to talk with me in six months about something, I will be there," Kouns said.