DHEC Unveils Display Honoring Former Agency Commissioner Michael D. Jarrett

On Friday, March 31, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) unveiled a newly restored memorabilia display honoring our former, beloved Commissioner, Michael “Mike” D. Jarrett.

We were joined at the ribbon-cutting ceremony by very special people from Mike Jarrett’s life, including his wife, Judy; their daughter, Deanna; and a crowd of extended family, current and former DHEC employees, and administrators who worked alongside Mike. The display case features special awards, documents and personal mementos, all of which serve as a reminder of Mike Jarrett’s dedication to improving the health of people in South Carolina.

Mike spent time with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the South Carolina Department of Vocational Rehabilitation prior to joining DHEC. He worked as a venereal disease investigator and tuberculosis epidemiologist. And he served as assistant to the Commissioner at DHEC for 12 years before his promotion to the role of Commissioner in 1986.

That’s a position he remained in until his untimely death from cancer in 1992.

Through two years of treatment, Mike remained hardworking and optimistic. He considered each day he was alive to be a blessing, and he only missed six days of work in his first 16 months of illness. But what folks remember most about Mike was his deep, personal commitment to customer service.

He lived by the Golden Rule – treat others the way you would like to be treated. That was obvious each day in the way he treated patients, legislators and employees. He loved getting to know the employees who worked at DHEC, learning who they were, how they did their jobs, and what he could learn from them. He spent evenings writing notes to staff members across the state, from comforting words for a family death to congratulations for a child’s graduation.

Mike’s impact on DHEC and South Carolina were just as important as his impact on our employees. He was instrumental in the passage of the 1978 S.C. Hazardous Waste Management Act. He was also known for his passion for children’s health issues, making a dedicated effort to draw attention to and positively affect change in the state’s infant mortality rate.

“Commissioner Jarrett’s legacy continues to live on today in the work DHEC does every day to improve the health of South Carolinians and the environment in which they live,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, current DHEC Director, adding, “No one in recent history has had as great an impact on our agency as Mike Jarrett.”

The memorabilia case is just one of the many ways Mike’s legacy continues to live on at DHEC and beyond.

  • The Michael D. Jarrett Outstanding Customer Service Awards were created in 1993 to honor DHEC employees who went above and beyond their duties to provide top-tier customer service. This award continues to honor public health employees to this day, carried on by the South Carolina Public Health Association. This year’s award went to Dr. Linda Bell, S.C. State Epidemiologist with DHEC.
  • Each year, the Michael D. Jarrett Scholarship goes to Arnold School of Public Health students at the University of South Carolina who show a commitment to public health and demonstrate a high potential for leadership skills.
  • Many DHEC employees still work at 2100 Bull St., in the Mills/Jarrett Complex, with one wing named for Mike Jarrett due to his tireless commitment to the agency.

DHEC employees Dave Waldrup, Dr. Linda Bell, Teresa Higgins, Trey Reed, Cristi Moore,  and recently retired Leah Dorman played an instrumental role in restoring the memorabilia display honoring Mike and the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate its restoration.

We here at DHEC want the display to remind our employees and visitors of the important history and legacy of Mike Jarrett, and we hope it will inspire everyone to follow Mike’s lead, treating others as they would like to be treated with kindness, compassion and dignity every single day.

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