Washington's longtime state veterinarian, Dr. Leonard Eldridge, retired from the Department of Agriculture in late August, and Paul Kohrs is now doing that job on an interim basis. Eldridge also led the agency’s Animal Services Division, which Mark Johnson is now overseeing while state agriculture director Bud Hover decides how to structure the jobs long term.
Eldridge left state service without wide notice but his work over the past nine years was recently recognized with a Veterinarian of the Year award from the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association. His work drew praise from fellow veterinarian Terry F. McElwain, who is associate director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health at Washington State University.
In a letter supporting Eldridge for the yearly award, McElwain said:
“His success as State Veterinarian has come at a time during which the State has suffered what is arguably the worst budget crisis in over 50 years. It is astounding that programs such as the Reserve Veterinary Corps, the Avian Health Program, and Emergency Response program have been developed during those times. I know Leonard would give credit to his staff for much of the work, but the leadership during these difficult times came from him. He was entrepreneurial in acquiring federal funding to support Washington State animal production, animal health and public health, and he worked tirelessly to promote our state, our profession, and our animal industries. … After multiple failed attempts, it was under his leadership that the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory was formally recognized as the official state animal health laboratory for the Washington State Department of Agriculture. He successfully argued for this change, and in the end the decision saved a substantial amount of money for the State.”The state veterinarian’s role is to investigate animal disease situations, and he also has an educational role in keeping diseases out of the state, according to the agency.