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Kansas City Health Director Retiring After 23 Years, Five Mayors And Five City Managers

Director of Kansas City Public Health Dr. Rex Archer announces his retirment on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Director of Kansas City Public Health Dr. Rex Archer announces his retirment on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday.

Dr. Rex Archer announced his retirement Tuesday on the steps of City Hall, saying he was not entirely ready to go fishing but has plans to move into higher education.

Dr. Rex Archer announced Tuesday that he is leaving his post as director of the Kansas City Public Health Department after 23 years, during which he has been an outspoken presence and the leading voice on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

He had planned to retire in December of 2020 but delayed that move to deal with the pandemic.

“The health department is here and has your back,” Archer said at a press conference. “Just because I may be formally leaving Aug. 1, doesn’t mean we’re not still there.”

Archer told reporters gathered on the steps of City Hall that he hoped to teach at a university or college.

Archer served under five different mayors and five different city managers.

Mayor Quinton Lucas praised Archer’s work.

“Rex Archer has been a leader among health directors, not just in our metro or in our region or in Missouri,” he said, “but throughout the country.”

He said Archer transformed the health department to reach out to previously neglected parts of the city.

Lucas said that he sometimes clashed with Archer during the pandemic, but that “it was never about politics, even in times when things got very political.”

Archer said he was grateful to head the health department of the city he grew up in.

“I wouldn’t trade these past 23 years for anything,” he said. “But nothing improves in public health through one individual. It’s the entire team.”

City officials said they will conduct a national search for a replacement.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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