WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A woman who played an integral part in leading Wichita County through the COVID-19 pandemic is retiring.

Lou Kreidler has been a mainstay in the Wichita County health front for 21 years.

“I was first hired on as the nursing director – now, as we call them – the nursing administrator, so I was a division head for the city of Wichita Falls, and then I was promoted into the assistant director position and then two years later into this position, where I’ve been the last 16 years,” Kreidler said.

Just eight years after being promoted to Director of Health, Kreidler took on one of the biggest challenges of her career, one many fought long and hard against.

“It was really controversial, but when you think about public health, you think about the best ways to protect all of the public and not just single individuals, and making that impact and really passing the comprehensive smoke-free ordinance did that for our community,” Kreidler said.

The ordinance banned smoking in restaurants and businesses unless they were a designated tobacco shop. Bars and restaurants with separate smoking areas had a grace period before the ban took effect.

Then came 2020.

“In all of my years, I never thought I’d work a pandemic, then all of a sudden, COVID came,” Kreidler said. “We had been watching that, monitoring the situation in China and then as it came to the United States, and then we had our first case here.”

Now, Kreidler is deciding to retire. Assistant Director of Health Amy Fagan who has worked with Kreidler for 20 years said it’s been a pleasure.

“It’s been so many years in public health working with Lou,” Fagan said. “We started here together; she started in 2001, I started in 2002, and we’ve been moving forward in public health ever since together.”

Kreidler felt it was now time to pass the torch and spend time with her grandkids, while also going camping with her husband, who is also retiring.

“I’m getting older, and so it really is just time for me to move on and start a new adventure and play with my grandbabies and let people who are younger and have new and bright ideas move forward with the health department,” Kreidler said.

Ultimately, Fagan just wants to tell Kreidler, thank you.

“For myself and from the other 100 people who have worked under Lou to say that we are better as an organization, we are better for having worked with you and for you, and we wish you all of the best in your future endeavors and we are excited to see you spend some time without your cell phone and wifi,” Fagan said.

Kreidler’s last day will be December 30, 2022, and Fagan will be taking over as interim director.