New Ford County health administrator has wealth of experience

By Chicago 5 Min Read

PAXTON — Donald “Donny” Gill’s original vocational goals were to become a health and physical education teacher.

That began to change when he took a community health class at Purdue University.

The professor “just sold me on it,” Gill said. “Some of the things he touched on throughout that semester just resonated with me, and then I started thinking: Instead of reaching 30 kids in a class, you can reach thousands through public health.”

Gill did end up teaching three years in Kingman, Ariz., but then turned his attention to public health.

His latest role in that arena is administrator of the Ford County Public Health Department. Gill was selected from a field of 18 applicants to succeed long-time administrator Lana Sample, who recently left the position to move to Florida. Gill’s first day on the job was Monday.

Ford County Board of Health President Mike Short said Gill’s credentials stood out.

“The fact that he had a rather extensive background and experience working with public health departments truly made Donny stand out over the other candidates,” Short said.

Gill, 49, served for 12 years, from 2007 to 2019, with the Lincoln Trail District Health Department in Elizabethtown, Ky., as community health strategist. He served for a year as the preparedness and grants coordinator for the Fountain & Warren County Health Department in Attica, Ind.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in health and safety education from Purdue in 2001, Gill earned a Master of Science degree in kinesiology/facilities management from Western Kentucky University in 2017.

The native of the rural Covington, Ind., moved to Danville after being named program director of Head Start of Vermilion, Iroquois and Ford counties. He also worked for the Purdue Cooperative Extension in West Lafayette, Ind., for two years.

The Ford County department has a staff of 12, including Gill.

Gill said his first days on the job have included meeting with his staff one on one — “learning about them and their programs and how they’re serving Ford County.”

He said Sample has volunteered to help him, via phone, through any rough patches learning the new job.

“I spoke with her yesterday,” Gill said. “I think that’s going to be huge for me, just because I’m not from the community, and she is. She gave me some helpful tips.”

Ford County formerly operated a joint public health department with Iroquois County until about nine years ago, when the two became separate departments.

Sample was hired as Ford County’s first public health administrator. She is now working as assistant director of the St. John’s County Department of Health in St. Augustine, Fla.

The health department operates out of two buildings in Paxton — one just east of the county courthouse and the other on East State Street in a building that formerly served as a Carle Clinic building, Gill said.

Services offered by the health department, according to Gill include:

• Vector control of the mosquito population and monitoring of the West Nile Virus

• Restaurant and specific installation inspections

• Services for senior citizens residing in Ford and Iroquois counties

• Community education to civic groups and schools and community education for elementary, middle and high schools

• Treatment of and checks for STI and head lice

• Testing for lead and radon

• COVID vaccine booster and seasonal flu shot administration

Gill said the most satisfying part of the job is “serving others, serving the community, trying to improve the lives of the people in that community, trying to change the health outcomes to the positive.”

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