Former Chatham County Public Health Director Layton Long receives Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Goldston, NC – Layton Long, recently retired Chatham County Public Health Director, has received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, the highest civilian honor in North Carolina.

Layton Long retired as Chatham County Public Health Director on May 31 after more than 30 years in public service.

The award was recently presented to Long by former colleagues from both Chatham and Davidson Counties at an informal, socially distanced “ceremony” on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Goldston.

The recognition is given to “persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments,” according to The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society. Past honorees include Maya Angelou, Richard Petty, Dean Smith and Billy Graham.

Long retired as the Public Health Director on May 31 after 32 years of service with state and local public health agencies, including the last six and a half years in Chatham County. He began his career in public service in the U.S. Air Force before joining Union County in 1988 as an Environmental Health Specialist. He continued his career in county-level health departments over the next several years in these roles:

  • Union County – Environmental Health Specialist – 1988-1993
  • Transylvania County – Environmental Health Supervisor – 1993-2001
  • Buncombe County – Environmental Health Director – 2001-2004
  • Davidson County – Health Director – 2004-2012

Long was named the State Environmental Health Director for the N.C. Division of Public Health in 2012. Missing service on a community level, Long returned to local public health in 2013 when he took the position of Health Director in Chatham County.

Prior to arriving in Chatham, Long helped spearhead the initiative to prohibit tobacco use in restaurants and bars across North Carolina. He brought that passion into his work in Chatham, helping develop a tobacco-free policy on county-owned property that became a county ordinance at the beginning of this year. Long also led efforts to create the Chatham Health Alliance, a collaborative effort between public and private stakeholders to advance health and equity.

Long was set to retire in April 2020, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he rose to the challenge and continued to serve past his original retirement date.

“Throughout his service to public health, Layton consistently put the mission of this work above himself and passed this dedication to those who have been fortunate enough to work alongside him,” said Mike Zelek, Chatham County Interim Public Health Director. “This continued to be evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he led Chatham County’s response and even postponed his retirement (and resubmitted his paperwork). Although he officially retired at the end of May, his legacy and dedication to public health lives on.”

Long continues his public service even after retirement as a member of the Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Board of Directors and Chair of the Goldston Town Planning Board. His list of past board and committee appointments is lengthy and includes roles as varied as serving as president of the North Carolina Environmental Health Supervisors Association, chair of the Davidson County Juvenile Crime Protection Council and a member of the Chatham County Partnership for Children Board.

Layton Long, former Chatham County Public Health Director, poses with his wife Jane on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Goldston after being presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Long’s nomination was supported by former colleagues, including Lillian Koontz, current Davidson County Health Director, and Daniel Staley, former director of the North Carolina Division of Public Health.

“North Carolina needs more public servants like Layton Long: selfless, thoughtful, fair, loyal and forward thinking,” Koontz wrote in her nomination letter. “Layton could have easily taken his talents to a workforce more glamorous, more notable and higher-paying, but a dedication to improving health of North Carolinians kept him in the trenches fighting for those who oftentimes could not fight for themselves.”

“Layton has led a life of public service in the desire to make North Carolinians live healthier, longer lives,” wrote Staley. “He has a proven record of extraordinary service to the State and its people. It is a privilege to recognize Layton for his many contributions.”