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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Health Director Dr. Rex Archer announced Tuesday he plans to retire later this summer.

Archer, head of the city’s heath department, said his final day will be Aug. 1. He said he and his wife originally planned that he’d retire in December 2020, but Archer stayed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to come back to the city in which they grew up to serve. I wouldn’t trade these past 23 years for anything,” Archer said in a statement.

“But I need to make clear that nothing improves in public health through one individual. It’s the entire team; it’s the Health Department; it’s our elected officials, media and other partners. When we decide to work together we can make a difference.”

Archer has led the department for the past 23 years.

Before COVID-19, among other things, Archer led the health department in its efforts to offer mental health services, combat crime, provide families with healthy meals and responded to other emergencies like the H1N1 epidemic.

Most notably, though, he’s helped guide Kansas City through the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year now as the city went through mask mandates, a stay-at-home order and business restrictions.

“While Dr. Archer has led Kansas City through many difficult moments, none compare to the challenges our community has faced in the wake of COVID-19,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a statement. “I have appreciated Dr. Archer’s steady counsel as we’ve worked to keep our city — and this entire region — safe. I thank Dr. Archer for his leadership and his decades of service to Kansas Citians.”

Lucas presented Archer with a proclamation from the city for his 23 years of service on Tuesday.

Archer noted that it’s interesting that for some, like himself, you join an organization and leave an organization on similar themes.

When he joined the Kansas City Health Department more than two decades ago, the agency issued a declaration of emergency response as HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases was drastically impacting minorities in Kansas City. Now he’ll leave the health department as the city grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

The city said it will begin a nationwide search to fill the health director position in the coming weeks.

“The health department is here and has your back,” Archer said outside City Hall on Tuesday. “Just because I may be formally, officially leaving Aug. 1 doesn’t meant were not still there.”

But Archer said he won’t be doing much relaxing when his time at the Kansas City Health Department comes to an end.

Before the pandemic, he had been working on a book, which he said he looks forward to continuing. He’s also considering several different teaching positions, and once he makes his decision, he’ll likely start in the fall.

“The body will rust out before it wears out,” he said.