After giving her some time to settle into her new job as Grand Traverse County Health Officer and move into a new health services building, I met with Wendy Trute to talk to her about her new position. Along with Environmental Health/Animal Control Program Director Tom Buss, she is responsible for the policies, procedures and staff of Animal Control in the County.
Trute left her job as the Public Health Administrator for the Rock Island County Health Department in Illinois to take the Grand Traverse position in at the end of August, 2012. A Sault Ste. Marie native, Trute couldn’t be happier to back in Northern Michigan doing a job that she enjoys that is much closer to her family, who all live here in Traverse City.
Trute met with the staff of Animal Control and toured their facilities on the first day of her new job. She said she considers the facility on Keystone Road to be “adequate” but is looking forward to the possibility of the dogs being able to be housed at the Cherryland Humane Society if negotiations are successful. Trute thinks very highly of Animal Control Officers Ed Hickey and Cindy Burkhardt, noting that they are very dedicated, mindful and thoughtful.
When she was offered the job in Traverse City, she talked to the Animal Control Department in Rock Island County about how Animal Control operates and asked about the opportunities and challenges that she may encounter on the job.
One important change to the Grand Traverse County Health Department is the open communication between Divisions. It was easy to see that the Animal Control Division, as well as the Health Department itself, is now free of the tension that bogged it down in the years preceding her.
She was aware of the horse abuse case involving Dana Round and the negative press that the County received from it before she was hired. She intends to have better communication with the Sheriff’s Office and has reviewed the Animal Control policies. She understands how important it is the keep the Animal Control Officers current on their training and welcomes the workshop that Buss helped organize for an upcoming Regional Horse Cruelty Workshop for Law Enforcement and Animal Control Officers to be held in Traverse City at the end of February. It’s a great workshop put together by the Grand Traverse Health Department, the Michigan Humane Society, MPAW, MAACO, MSU and the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Office. Buss has also talked about having a similar one for animal rescue groups.
Grand Traverse County Animal Control is also a member of MAACO (Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers) which according to their website is a non-profit organization registered with the state of Michigan “dedicated to the enhancement of the profession of Animal Control Officers in the State of Michigan by establishing professional standards, training and practices, for the control and care of animals and the protection of the public health.”
Adding to the more open communication in the Department, Trute is being copied on all Animal Control related email communications to and from Buss, as she learns what overseeing an Animal Control program is all about. It was impressive to see her easy-going, yet professional relationship with the staff, which is and will be an asset to how things are run at the Health Department.
Trute and Buss are both very optimistic about the current negotiations with Cherryland Humane Society concerning the housing of Grand Traverse County Animal Control dogs. The County and the Humane Society have been working on the issue for almost a year. They are working towards an agreement that will be acceptable to both sides and hope to be able to announce an agreement soon.
In addition to Trute’s Health Department and Animal Control duties, she is also the interim Emergency Manager for the county until the County hires a replacement for Daniel Scott who retired on January 4th to spend more time with his family.
Trute is owned by a cat named Lexi, who is four years old who she adopted in Wisconsin. Lexi was a barn cat who captured Trute’s heart while she was visiting a friend’s dairy farm and they have been best friends ever since.