Wellness coordinator's legacy lives on in Healthy County program

Iris Stagner Award given annually to top wellness coordinator or sponsor

By Melissa Maluski

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Each year, the Texas Association of Counties Health and Employee Benefits Pool (TAC HEBP) honors the life of former Palo Pinto County wellness coordinator Iris Stagner by presenting an award named after her. Stagner was an active participant in TAC HEBP's Healthy County program until she died tragically in a bicycle accident in 2012.

"She was a firecracker. She was just a very active outdoor person, and she was a lot of fun to be around," remembers Phyllis Banks, Palo Pinto County Auditor and friend of Stagner. "She was a hard worker, and she always wanted to get things for Palo Pinto County."

Banks said Stagner, an avid cyclist, petitioned the state and county for bicycle safety and awareness signs for motorists. She said Stagner had a passion for helping others live healthier lifestyles.

"She was the one who started the process of getting exercise equipment and having a room to exercise in," Banks said. "She was trying to get everybody motivated to working out in the exercise room that we had available at the time, but unfortunately, she passed away before she got to see what we were finally able to do last year with actually having a dedicated space for it."

The family of Iris Stagner poses with TAC Health and Employee Benefits
Pool Wellness Consultants Mark Zollitsch, Ashley Cureton and Shameria
Davis. (Credit: Shameria Davis)
A 2011 photo of Iris Stagner.
(Credit: Phyllis Banks)
Palo Pinto County Judge Shane Long speaks at the Employee
Fitness Center in Palo Pinto County in November 2021. The
fitness center was dedicated to Iris Stagner. (Credit: Shameria
Davis)
Palo Pinto County Auditor Phyllis Banks, left, inside the
new fitness center in November. (Credit: Shameria Davis)

Stagner's vision of a county fitness center was fulfilled by the hard work of Palo Pinto's current wellness coordinator, Angela Bryant, and other county employees last year. The ribbon-cutting for the Palo Pinto County Employee Fitness Center took place in November 2021, and an inscription on the door dedicates the center to Stagner's memory.

TAC HEBP also continues to honor her through the Iris Stagner Award, bestowed annually during Healthy County Boot Camp.

"Iris just embodied what a coordinator was, what [TAC HEBP] envisioned a coordinator being in their county," said TAC HEBP Wellness Consultant Ashley Cureton. "She was engaged in the different programs and activities that were available, but also had a personal lifestyle of wanting to be active, not only at the workplace but also within the community as well."

TAC HEBP presented the first Iris Stagner Award in 2013. Palo Pinto County residents are thankful that Stagner is continuing to be recognized outside of their community.

"We were very proud that TAC implemented that award, and her family was as well, for TAC to recognize Iris for her outstanding leadership in the Healthy County program and trying to make it safer for people running and riding bicycles," Banks said.

The Iris Stagner Award honors the most enthusiastic and innovative among Healthy County wellness coordinators and sponsors. This year's recipient was Robert Ripley, benefits administrator for the Harris County Appraisal District and wellness coordinator.

"It's a great honor and very humbling to be the recipient this year," Ripley said. "From the very beginning, when I first heard about Iris, it was such a motivating story and a sad story at the same time."

Cureton said Ripley is deserving of this year's award because he has consistently shown that he is invested in his co-workers and the program.

"I've always appreciated Robert for wanting more and wanting the best for his employees, and also having a pulse on what employees are interested and engaged in," Cureton said. "That was one of the main reasons why Robert was chosen; that mindfulness, when it comes to being able to connect with employees, being that bridge of knowing what the employees want, knowing what we have and knowing what we could potentially look at."

In addition to the Iris Stagner Award, Healthy County gives out many other awards each year to motivate wellness coordinators and sponsors to be as passionate as Stagner was.

"We want to recognize our counties and our coordinators and sponsors, specifically, for their hard work and taking the lead and being the boots on the ground for us when it comes to the Healthy County program," Cureton said. "We want to reward them for their efforts, and it's just another way for us to say thank you."

Congratulations to the 2022 Healthy County Boot Camp Award Winners

Iris Stagner Award
Robert Ripley, Harris County
Appraisal District (pictured above with TAC HEBP Wellness Consultant Ashley Cureton)

Iris Stagner Honorable Mentions
Juanita Barerra, Val Verde County
Angela Bryant, Palo Pinto County
Margaret Ewers and Judge Terri Carter, Sherman County

Paula Butler Award
Courtney Redman, Tom Green County

Paula Butler Honorable Mention
Tasha Brent, Houston County

Wellness Committee of the Year
Eastland County

Highest Participation Awards
25 Lives or Less: King County
26-50 Lives: Hutchinson County
50-99 Lives: Fayette County
100-199 Lives: Brown County and Lee County
Over 200 Lives: Yoakum County

Most Improvement Awards
25 Lives or Less: Menard County and King County
26-50 Lives: Hutchinson County
51-99 Lives: Fayette County
100-199 Lives: Crane County
Over 200 Lives: Henderson County