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Armitage retiring from senior services

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Gary Armitage prepares to retire in March as director of the Belmont County Senior Services Department.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Gary Armitage is retiring in March as director of the Belmont County Department of Senior Services. He has helmed the department for several years and oversaw its transfer to a new site.

Armitage began his career as a social worker for mental health services in the 1970s. He worked with institutionalized people at Cambridge State Hospital. His focus would shift to senior clients.

“Many of those people had been institutionalized for many, many years and their only community placement as they started to deinstitutionalize were in nursing homes, so I followed many of those patients into the nursing home system and eventually I became a licensed nursing home administrator,” he said.

“I had been working with the senior population … for my entire career and this seemed like a perfect fit for me to end my career, working on keeping people out of institutions,” he said.

“It’s just been a pleasure. This has been one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve had in my professional career and it’s really been fun to service a couple thousand of our county residents. I go out of here with no regrets and no issues whatsoever.

“I love the staff that I work with. The commissioners have been wonderful to work with. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss everybody.”

He said one of the most significant developments was the opening of a new office, kitchen and commons room building in 2017.

“That was obviously a big one, from that old building that was just not conducive to what we were charged to do into this place. I’m proud to be involved in that process and happy we were able to make such a smooth transition and continue to grow the services that we’re doing here. I think we’ve come along way,” he said.

Armitage said the department has continued to improve.

“We’re in the process of replacing our fleet vehicles now, and we’ve added a number of staff over the five-plus years that I’ve been around,” he said.

He said the best part of the job was meeting the people served by his department.

“I got the opportunity early on to get out with my drivers and get around to the people that you normally don’t see at our centers. These are the people who are homebound and unable to get out on their own. Getting a chance to meet them and just find out how essential some of our services are in keeping them in their homes rather than in an institutional setting,” he said.

“As we move forward, now that we are in a stable setting and cooperation and prospects ahead of us, those folks like me who are seniors themselves, we’re going to continue to grow in our need for those services through the baby boomer generation,” he said.

“That population continues to increase and our service needs continue to increase as we continue to outlive our parents’ and grandparents’ generations as far as life expectancy. I’m hoping that the county commissioners, the new director and the staff here can look forward to developing new and better products to serve the needs of those people out there,” he said. Armitage said he looks forward to orienting his successor when the board of commissioners selects someone.

Armitage, 65, intends to join his wife in retirement and see his children more often. He will also spend more time outdoors at his farm in Scotch Ridge between Yorkville and Mount Pleasant.

Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton said the county is advertising for a new director.

“We’re currently going through the process right now. We have it posted. We’re receiving applications,” he said, adding they hope to have a new director selected and trained by Armitage’s retirement.

“We really appreciate Mr. Armitage’s service to Belmont County. The department does a fantastic job in supporting the senior citizens of Belmont County,” Dutton said.

“It’s quite an operation. It’s one that has been running basically seamlessly. We congratulate him on a job well-done,” Dutton said. “The facility that they were utilizing prior to produce those meals every day compared to the facilities they have now is a great, welcome change. All of Belmont County is benefiting from that. We appreciate the support of the voters of Belmont County for continuing to support the levies.”

“We appreciate the service that Gary’s provided since we’ve been in office,” Commissioner Josh Meyer said. “In our time that he’s been here he’s done a fantastic job for Senior Services, has provided a lot of great input and has done things very well. His services will be missed and I’m sure he’s looking forward to moving on to the retirement phase of his life and enjoying time with family.”

“I’m sorry to see him leave,” Echemann said. “I thought he did a really good job running Senior Services … We get a lot of complaints about a lot of things. Very few complaints regarding Senior Services regarding meal delivery and various other things they do. Senior centers are very well-run by the directors.”

Armitage will also visit the commissioners in the next two weeks to give an department update.

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