Dr. Travis Riddell probably wishes 2020 had turned out differently than it has so far, but the Teton Board of Realtors is trying to give him a little boost.
The board announced earlier recently that Riddell was its Business Person of the Year. The owner of Jackson Pediatrics, Riddell has somehow balanced running his business while moonlighting (and sometimes daylighting, and sometimes weekending) in his second role, that of Teton District health officer.
“I’ve certainly been spending a fair amount of time on nights and weekends doing public health stuff once I get wrapped up at my clinic each day,” Riddell said. “So, yeah, it’s a balancing act, but that’s part of the assignment.”
As the health officer Riddell has been responsible for steering Teton County through the coronavirus pandemic. He’s not an elected official but is instead appointed by the Teton County Board of County Commissioners.
In that capacity he’s been saddled with more tough decisions than at any point in his tenure, and elected officials from both the town and county have demurred on decisions pertaining to public health, instead deferring to Riddell. His choices have naturally garnered a lot of attention (286 articles since the New Year mention him in this paper and its digital and sister publications), and he’s stayed the course in the face of some stark disagreement from some people in the community.
“Even though his decisions are not always popular, he has always put the members in our community first,” the Board of Realtors wrote in a press release. “Because of some of his decisions early on, Jackson was able to flatten the curve right before the summer visitors arrived.”
Having a master’s degree in public health, Riddell makes decisions based on health metrics, he said, rather than being saddled with political considerations. Even though he has heard from people from both poles of the lockdown debate — those who want to lift all restrictions or put new ones in place — he is confident he is doing what he can to help the community weather the pandemic.
“If I’m falling in the realm where, you know, there are folks falling on either side, maybe that’s an appropriate place to be,” he said.
As the health officer, Riddell knew what he was signing up for, though he admittedly wasn’t expecting a global pandemic to rip through Teton County. That doesn’t make his decisions any easier, but he’s grateful community members like the Realtors stand behind him.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty about everything that’s going on here,” he said. “For that reason, having support from people in the community, including through this award, is really important for me.”