By Emily Gresham Wherle, Public Information Administrator
When Tony Kramer first started serving on the District Board of Health in 1997, it was a tumultuous time. The Board was debating measures on emergency contraception and Title X family planning funding. Board meetings were often long, and filled with heated debate among the members.
As Kramer enters his 20th year of service on the Board and begins a one-year term as its Chair, he’s amazed to see how the agency has emerged from that difficult period.
“There were so many chances back then for the Health Department to be derailed,” Kramer said. “It’s amazing to see how that didn’t happen—that the Health Department staff, with leadership from Dr. Steve Katkowsky and Dr. Lynne Saddler, kept sight of its mission and managed to move public health in Northern Kentucky forward in a positive way—and even become one of the first health departments in the nation to achieve accreditation.”
Kramer said that dynamics of the Board have also changed, and members now work together. “We may not always be on the same line, but we’re on the same page,” he said.
Kramer said that while he appreciates the administrative knowledge of the Health Department that he’s gained during his time on the Board, he is most impressed with the detailed information about programs and services—or what’s going on in the trenches, as he put it. Serving terms as chair of several Board committees, including Environmental Health and Safety, Diabetes, and Family Planning Information and Education has given Kramer the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the volume of work that the Health Department staff do day-to-day.
“We need to be sure that others in our community know about the good that public health achieves for Northern Kentucky. We need to toot our own horns,” Kramer said.
Kramer, who is the designee for Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso, brings a background in emergency services to the Board. Early in his career, he worked as an emergency medical technician and paramedic, doing advanced life support runs in Northern Kentucky. In 1986, Kramer earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing from Thomas More College. Then, in 1987, he moved into education, first teaching in the paramedic program at the University of Cincinnati. When UC eliminated the program in 2016, Kramer stayed with teaching, but moved to Cincinnati State.
Kramer said his service on the Board of Health has been useful in his career, helping him to understand politics and diplomacy. He feels that watching some of his colleagues on the Board with deep knowledge of Northern Kentucky, like Jeff Earlywine and Will Ziegler, has made him better. “Being on the Board has taught me and helped me so much,” Kramer said. “I’ve walked away humbled.”
As he begins his term as Chair, Kramer feels fortunate to have support from fellow Board members, staff and legal counsel. “We’ve had a lot of phenomenal chairs of this Board, and I hope to follow their examples, in a fair, open and non-biased way. I hope the Board and the Health Department are able to continue to meet challenges head on.”
Some of those challenges include the continued response to the opioid epidemic, and resulting infectious disease concerns around HIV and hepatitis C. Kramer expects to continue to advocate for expansion of the syringe access exchange program. He hopes that support from the community and first responders will build, and that such a program can eventually be provided at the Campbell County Health Center in Kramer’s hometown of Newport.
Kramer would also like the Health Department to continue addressing chronic diseases. A cancer survivor himself, Kramer would like to see cancer rates decrease—much of which can be done by reducing tobacco use among residents, he noted.
Kramer and his wife Paula have been married for 34 years and live in Newport. They have four children, ranging in age from 30 to 9, and five grandchildren with the newest addition being born just last week.
Professionally, Kramer is looking forward to starting a satellite paramedic program for Cincinnati State in Campbell County in the coming months. He hopes that paramedics that he helps train will take jobs serving Northern Kentucky’s communities.
“It’s exciting to see so many good things happening at the Health Department that benefit Northern Kentucky,” Kramer said. “We’re moving in a positive direction, and always asking, ‘How can we do better?’ and ‘What else can we do for our community?’ Those questions, and the efforts that result from them, can truly have a lasting impact and improve our community’s health and quality of life.”