Earl Hunter, commissioner of the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will retire from the agency on February 1, 2012. He has served the longest of any commissioner in the agency’s history.
“When you devote so many years of your life to an effort, it’s always difficult to walk away,” Hunter said in a press release. “But after discussions with the board, I believe the time is right for me to make this change. I can’t say enough about the agency and the efforts of its staff through the years. It’s never popular to be a regulatory agency. But the efforts given by our staff to follow the laws of this state and meet the federal mandates we must meet, are beyond what most people can imagine.”
He became DHEC chief in August, 2001, and soon had to deal with the statewide response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, culminating in a public health preparedness program. Other events during his tenure: a massive train derailment and chlorine spill in Graniteville, S.C.; and the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak.
Now, DHEC’s seven member board will conduct a nationwide search for Hunter’s replacement. According to an agency press release, Hunter will assist with the transition of the agency to a new commissioner.