Outgoing Director of Public and Community Health reflects on time in Hudson

519

Outgoing Director of Public and Community Health reflects on time in Hudson
Kelli Calo has served as Hudson’s Health Director for roughly seven years. (Photo/submitted)

HUDSON – Hudson Director of Public and Community Health Kelli Calo is wrapping up a roughly seven year tenure with the Health Department, this week, following her decision to resign earlier this year.

Calo’s last day is April 8.

Reflecting on a job recently dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic response, Calo recently celebrated her colleagues while noting the formidable challenges still facing public health professionals.

“The community has been really good,” she said of the pandemic in an interview with the Community Advocate. “But it has been difficult. It has taken a toll.”

Interest in prevention drives career choice

Calo got her start in college at Worcester State University pursuing a career in nursing.

She soon pivoted, though.

“I said to myself, ‘I’d rather do something to prevent disease and prevent people from coming to the hospital and overburdening the hospital staff,’” she said.

Calo took a public health intern position in Webster before moving to a role in Marlborough.

She then applied for a full time position in neighboring Hudson, joining the Health Department as a sanitarian.

Calo soon expanded that role to manage Hudson’s Mass in Motion program, promoting healthy living through a number of initiatives.

As part of that, she collaborated with Town Hall colleague Pam Helinek to launch Hudson’s now beloved downtown farmers market.

Calo rose to lead her department in 2017, tackling a variety of public health challenges before the pandemic took hold in March of 2020.

That’s when her job rapidly evolved, placing large burdens on a department that Calo said didn’t have the staff to initially handle the crush.

“Public health has had to take on a lot more than I think any of us bargained for getting into this career,” she said.

“I probably should have had a little bit more of a work-life balance because I don’t think I went a single day over the last two years without working in some sort of capacity,” she added.

Calo said she worked 80 hour weeks for much of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as she noted that the Health Department benefited from the support of colleagues like school nurses while the town worked to onboard new staff.

Two years after the pandemic started and seven years after Calo came to Hudson, a department that started with just four employees has now swelled to include 16.

They’ve been bolstered, in that, by roughly $3 million in grant funding that Calo has helped win in her years in town, allowing the department to expand services for residents.

‘We have a fabulous team’

Calo is leaving a full time role in local government, opting for a part-time public health position in Sudbury and a full-time private sector job.

Back at Town Hall in Hudson, the town has posted and collected job applications to select a new department head.

It had not announced a pick as of last week.

“We have a fabulous team here,” Calo said. “And I wish the Town of Hudson the best of luck in hiring someone that is capable of stepping into this role. I’ll miss it so much.”

RELATED CONTENT

Hudson’s Director of Public and Community Health announces resignation

Hudson Farmers’ Market going strong after five years, looks to expand

‘It’s terrifying’: Contact tracers see mental health strain from work