When the Craig Station of Tri-State Generation & Transmission was under construction in the late 1970s, it was Moffat County Medical Officer Thomas Told’s priority to make sure it was built with the health of county residents in mind.
He said he and Moffat County officials pressed for the plant to include sulfur dioxide scrubbers in the smokestacks.
“Sulfur dioxide and water make sulfuric acid,” he said. “And our lungs are mostly water, so I (didn’t) want people breathing that in.”
He said the release of sulfur dioxide into the air could have meant an increased risk for emphysema and other respiratory issues for residents.
“There are a lot of resources in our area, but the most important is the citizens,” Told said. “And the best thing we can do is to protect these citizens.”
For 34 years, Told volunteered his time to do just that as Moffat County Medical Officer.
Friends, county officials and medical providers turned out to celebrate Told’s 34 years of service to the community Friday at The Memorial Hospital in Craig.
Told moved to Denver a year ago to work at Rocky Vista University, and while he maintains a home in Craig, he felt the medical officer position would be better filled by a full-time resident familiar with the community.
On April 6, the Moffat County Commission appointed Dr. Scott Ellis, an obstetrician/gynecologist at TMH, to take over for Told.
But, his influence and investment in Moffat County’s public health system does not waver.
“He’s got my card, and he can call me anytime,” Told said. “I know him very well and we’re in the same medical society.
“It is like a brotherhood.”
At Friday’s reception, county commissioner Audrey Danner presented Told with a commemorative clock engraved with his name and former title.
“The medical officer is a very important position in our community,” Danner said to Told. “And as we understand the interconnection between the community and public health, you’ve been there as a volunteer.”
Told, who first took the job in 1976, said he has seen a significant evolution in health care in Moffat County.
“We’ve become more professional with health care,” Told said. “Our ambulance service has gone from the ‘scoop and run’ that it was to what we have today.”
The medical officer is responsible for consulting and overseeing public health issues, including outbreaks, water contamination issues and building inspection.
Told was once asked to inspect a house that had been acting as a shelter for 56 cats.
In another instance, he was called to look over a sewage system in a house where the owner threatened to kill anyone who came to inspect it.
“I have some very fond memories,” he said with a laugh.
Still, he said he’s leaving the position in the hands of a capable, committed doctor in Ellis.
“I feel really comfortable about turning things over to him,” Told said. “It was a great choice on the part of the county commission and I really appreciate him stepping up.”
Ellis was involved with a baby delivery Friday morning, but stopped by the reception for a few minutes.
“I’m happy to do anything I can to serve the community,” Ellis said. “This place feels very much like home.”
Gisela Garrison, Northwest Colorado Community Health Center director, said Told’s years of service meant a lot to the county’s public health system.
“It’s a wonderful partnership in the sense of making decisions about public health,” Garrison said. “The (Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association) could not do it’s job without the backing of the health officer.”
For Told, his decades as the medical officer were rewarding because he could serve community residents.
“You get paid by the good things you do,” he said. “And I’ve been paid very well over the last 34 years.”