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Twenty years for the health of Ironton

Patti Rice has been honored for her 20 years of volunteer service for the Ironton Health Department Board.


Patti Rice was concerned about her father when, after her father’s quadruple bypass surgery, he turned down the position on the Ironton Board of Health.

“I was pushing him,” she said. “He said, ‘If you think it’s so important, you do it.’ Before I knew it, my phone was ringing and it was Mayor (Jim) Tordiff.”

That was in 1992, and now, 20 years later, Rice is still a member. She is the president pro-tempore, on a board consisting of five members and the Mayor of Ironton.

Rice said the main responsibility of the board is to come up with ideas, strategies and policies and to guide the staff in implementing those ideas.

“I like it,” she said. “It’s where I feel I can help.”

Laura Brown, health commissioner for the Ironton City Health Department, said the board positions are for terms of three years, with the members recommended by the mayor and appointed by the city council.

“These people are really dedicated to the health department,” Brown said. “They make decisions on how we run the health department. They are a very needed people.”

“It’s about providing good quality service to the population you serve. I’m proud of our health department,” Rice said. We are there to serve the public and help where we can.”

Rice added that it is convenient for people to have a place to call and voice concerns, regarding everything from restaurants, garbage and unkempt lawns.

Brown can’t say enough about Rice’s service on the board.

“Patti is awesome. She is dependable. she is an asset to our board,” Brown said.

“She is the best. I’m tickled with everybody on our board,” Brown said. “Patti has been there for 20 years and everybody looks up to her.”

Brown noted that she is unaware of anyone else being on the board for as many years as Rice. When asked why she continues to serve, she laughed.

“Sometimes I ask myself that question, ‘Why am I still here?’” she said. “This is where I feel like I can make a difference. I always want to make it better. We are in the business to serve the people of Ironton.”

Over the past 20 years, Rice has developed many memories, including when a man in his 80s joined the board for the first time. “He said, ‘I just don’t know if I can do this,’” Rice said. “I said, ‘This will be great. You will make a difference. And you may be 85 years old, but I’m still the senior member on the board,” she laughed.

Rice said she continues to find ways to try to make a difference. She remembers going to the Ohio Department of Transportation meetings about the new Ironton-Russell bridge.

“I went to each meeting and said, ’Now listen, when you are building this bridge, don’t shut down that old bridge before the new one is built. We don’t have a hospital in this county. People will die without that bridge,’” she said.

Rice said her connection to the health department began many years ago. She said when her son was young, she took him to the health department to get his vaccines.

“People don’t realize what services are out there for them,” Rice said. “I try to promote the health department when I can.”

Rice said she feels public service is important for everyone to do. Having developed Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease, finding out she had it when she was 44 years old, Rice hasn’t let it slow down her efforts to continue helping her community.

“I’ve done really well (with the disease) but it takes a lot of effort,” she said. “You take everyday, stay as healthy as you can for as long as you can.

“You know one day it’s going to get you, but not today,” she said.