In January 1977, Rick Matheny was the only employee for a new health district created by Canton, Granby and East Granby.
Through the years the towns of Avon, Barkhamsted, Colebrook, Farmington, Hartland, New Hartford, and Simsbury joined the Farmington Valley Health District.
As the district’s members and responsibilities picked up through the years it grew to 13 employees, although the economy has trimmed that number to 9.
Through it all, Matheny has been at the helm as director of health, a position he will relinquish later this year.
Originally he had planned to retire last month and recently, his fellow employees, friends and town and state officials gathered to honor Matheny’s years of service and to showcase the district’s newest home at 95 River Road in Canton.
On hand were accolades, declarations from every town and refreshments.
Matheny said he is proud of what the district has done and gave credit to his co-workers.
“Our staff is very professional,” he said. “Our organization is well respected in this state.”
The district oversees local inspections, works with schools and towns on vaccinations and other safety initiatives, responds to emergencies and monitors other health threats. It's funded by per-capita assessments from the town and state as well as grants.
Through the years, Matheny has also worked on several big cases and listed three highlights he and the district worked on:
- Discovered hazardous waste dumping at the former Swift Chemical on Route 44. Hundreds of gallons of solvents polluted wells in the area, Matheny said.
- Conducted water samples and showed area landfills were polluting wells, which led to closure of several.
- Started a campaign in the early 1990s that eventually led to a Polymer Resources in Farmington installing pollution control measures after allegedly making people ill from excess emissions.
Matheny said he is also proud of the district’s recent efforts to promote healthy lifestyles such as sponsoring Teen Battle Chef competitions in area schools.
Matheny has a master’s degree in public health from Yale University, an undergraduate biology degree and studied forestry for two year.
The Granby resident said he doesn’t have elaborate plans for retirement but does plan to play some golf and continue his passion for photography.
His last day on the job will be Aug. 31.