Carroll County’s health officer is stepping down at the end of October and moving to a position in county government.
The face of the county’s 19-month battle with COVID-19, Ed Singer has served as the county’s health officer for six years and worked in the department for 33 years. He doesn’t want to say why he is leaving but said he is not happy about it.
“Nothing I would say about why I’m leaving would be good,” Singer said. “I don’t really want to sling mud at anybody.”
His last day is Oct. 27, after which he will become the county’s watershed manager. The 56-year-old said it’s a job he’s looking forward to. The state health department has appointed Sue Doyle to serve as acting health officer after Singer’s departure.
Reflecting on his tenure, Singer said he appreciated his relationship with the Board of Carroll County Commissioners.
Commissioner Richard Weaver of District 2, who was part of the interview process when Singer sought the health officer job, said the commissioners had strong communication with Singer and the health department. He was accessible, open and honest, even when people disagreed, Weaver said.
“You can’t ask for a better relationship,” he said.
Weaver said Singer was under a lot of pressure and that he probably had enough after months of dealing with the challenges of coronavirus mitigation and those who opposed the guidelines the health department suggested to fight the pandemic.
“I think he felt like a middle of a sandwich,” Weaver said about Singer. “No matter what he did, he was in the middle. Whatever he did, someone’s going to be unhappy.”
Weaver said he suspects Singer had enough of the bureaucracy. However, he’s happy Singer is joining county government.
“The state’s loss is the county’s gain,” he added.
Throughout the pandemic, Singer was sometimes at odds with Carroll school leaders about COVID-related recommendations, such as mask-wearing and returning students to the classroom. For example, Singer said at a Wednesday night school board meeting that he was not comfortable with a proposed school policy change that would have students quarantine as a close contact only if they are symptomatic or were not wearing a mask at the time of exposure.
But Steve Lockard, superintendent of Carroll County Public Schools, said the school system also had a great partnership with Singer and he is going to miss Singer’s helpfulness, responsiveness and dedication to the community.
For the past 19 months or so, Lockard said their back-and-forth communication was constant and often strayed beyond business hours. They’d speak evenings, weekends and sometimes holidays “because the pandemic doesn’t know boundaries of the workday,” Lockard said.
As leaders, both made decisions not everyone liked, Lockard said. The superintendent added that he gives Singer “all the credit in the world” for how he handled it.
“I think Ed held true to himself,” Lockard added.
He said Singer always acted with the community’s health in mind when making a lot of decisions on complex scenarios.
Singer graduated from Western Maryland College, which is now McDaniel College, in 1987 and began his career at the Carroll County Health Department doing fieldwork in environmental health. Other than a short stint as the director of environmental health at the Dorchester County Health Department in 1997, he has been in Carroll ever since.
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He was named the director of environmental health in Carroll in 2004. That year, he was first deployed to Afghanistan in the United States Army Reserve. He had transferred to the reserve after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2015, he became the health officer, a job that pays him roughly $107,000 a year.
Doyle will take over leadership of the county health department after serving as the agency’s Local Behavioral Health Authority. She has worked at the department since 1983.
“Things will be seamless with her,” Singer said on the transition.
Doyle said they share a lot of the same visions and ideals. They both value making data-driven decisions and providing services that are in the best interest of the community. She added she’s aware she has big shoes to fill and is sad to see her friend and colleague go.
“I have been so impressed with the positive changes that have happened at the Carroll County Health Department under his leadership,” Doyle wrote in an email. “He has promoted programming needed in the community and advocated for programming and resources. His leadership and support through the COVID crisis was paramount to our success and our continued work.”
Although Singer said he is “not happy to be leaving,” he noted that there were positives about the job.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the job because I love dealing with people,” he said.