/ Articles / Dreger steps into health officer of Vilas County

Dreger steps into health officer of Vilas County

August 20, 2019 by Abigail Bostwick

After years of serving Vilas County in the health department as both nurse and deputy director, longtime employee Laurel Dreger has been promoted to health director. 

“We’re really a family here,” Dreger said of the Vilas County Health Department, based in Eagle River. “I’m very excited for this working situation.”

Dreger grew up in the Chicago area and obtained a bachelor of psychology from Duke and later a bachelor of nursing from Northwestern University. She’d go on to obtain her law degree from DePaul University. Dreger practiced law for a number of years before returning to nursing. While her degree is active, she does not practice it at the current time.

“(However) I do think my law background is an asset to this job because much of what we do is based on state statutes and ordinances and administrative codes,” Dreger said. 

Dreger took over for Gina Egan. As her deputy director, Dreger said years of working side by side with Egan helped her learn the position and how to slide into the role with ease. 

“The transition is so much more smooth. It went really well,” Dreger said. 

In addition to Dreger, the Vilas County Health Department has a staff of assistant/deputy health officer, nurse, administrative assistant, dental hygienist, dental assistant, two sanitarians as well as summer interns from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Combined, the professionals have more than 100 years of public health experience, Dreger noted. 

“I’m very proud of working with the department,” Dreger said. “We have a fantastic staff.”

Moving forward, Dreger said she looks forward to continuing the programming of the health department, working with the board of health and county board as well as county agencies and community partners in addition to the community.

With a strategic plan and performance management plan in place, Dreger said the department continuously works on improving their programming as well as internal teamwork and public health expertise. 

“I love being in the community,” Dreger said. “I would like to better communicate with the community. We are here to serve the community — we invite the public to come in to our offices and meet us and hear about the great things we do here in public health and share their ideas and concerns.” 

The department is in its third year of the Community Health Improvement Plan, working to improve priorities such as chronic disease, mental health and alcohol and drug abuse. 

“We have workplaces and do coalition work around these priorities to try and improve the community’s health around these issues,” Dreger indicated. 

Also of focus are numerous other programs such as public health preparedness, maternal child care, the Women’s and Infants (WIC) program, immunization and vaccine clinics, licensing/inspection of all county facilities such as tourist rooming houses, restaurants, hotels/motels, beach testing, pools, camps and campgrounds and more. 

Whether here to recreate, live or be a snowbird, Dreger said the health department is here to work with all in Vilas County. 

Dreger has two children, a son and a daughter, as well as gained five children after marrying her husband 15 years ago. She has resided in the area since 1992. They enjoy camping, golfing and pontooning. 

The Vilas County Health Department is in the courthouse in Eagle River and can be reached at 715-479-3656 or by visiting vilaspublichealth.com or their Facebook page. 

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