Home Local News Retired health director receives honorable award from RichmondCC Foundation

Retired health director receives honorable award from RichmondCC Foundation

Dr. Tommy Jarrell stands in front of the Health Department in downtown Rockingham, where he served as the health director for Richmond County for 30 years. Jarrell has been named the Richmond Community College Foundation 2022’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year and will be honored at the Valentine’s Gala on Feb. 12 at the Cole Auditorium.

HAMLET — The Richmond Community College Foundation has named Dr. Tommy Jarrell, retired health director for Richmond County, as its 2022 Distinguished Citizen of the Year. The Foundation will be honoring Jarrell at its special Valentine’s Gala on Feb. 12 at the Cole Auditorium.

“Our county was so fortunate to have Dr. Tommy Jarrell as our health director for so many years, but his leadership and wisdom really came through during the pandemic. His calm, confident approach was a benefit to everyone in Richmond County, but especially to our college,” said Dr. Dale McInnis, president of RichmondCC. “Dr. Jarrell used science, great communication skills and common sense to help us stay open while staying safe. I am proud we can recognize Tommy for his dedicated commitment to the health and well-being of Richmond County.”

In addition to serving as health director, Jarrell has taught as an adjunct instructor with RichmondCC for the past 30 years. He currently serves as incoming chairman of the Board of Advisors of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital-Richmond and as a board member of Sandhills Centers – Mental Health.

“I am very surprised and humbled to be recognized for this award from the College Foundation,” Jarrell said. “Richmond and Scotland counties are great places to reside, and I appreciate this honor and look forward to working with others in this community as we all work together to continue our efforts to make this a healthier and more educated and caring area for our residents.”

Jarrell was hired to be the health director for Richmond County in 1991. He retired in July of this year.

During his 30-year tenure as health director, Jarrell was able to work in partnership with other entities to establish a Children’s Dental Clinic, Health Clinic for the Uninsured and Underinsured in Richmond County, Free Pharmacy Assistance Program and secure funding to demolish the former Imperial Foods building in Hamlet. In addition, great strides were made to reduce health disease, infant mortality and teen pregnancy in Richmond County. In 2020, he was named North Carolina Health Director of the Year.  

However, one of the biggest challenges of his career was helping keep his community safe during a worldwide pandemic that has ultimately changed life as we know it.

“The COVID pandemic has been without a doubt the greatest challenge most of us have ever experienced. It has, and continues to place, a great strain on each and every one of us,” Jarrell said. “While it was not welcomed or anticipated, it allowed entities throughout the community to demonstrate their ability to work together to care for our citizens to the best of our ability.”


Jarrell is a lifelong resident of Richmond County. At age 12, he began delivering the afternoon newspaper for the Richmond County Daily Journal. After four years of being a paper boy, he took a job as bag boy at both Bi-Lo and Food King grocery stores. 

After graduating from Richmond Senior High School, Jarrell completed his undergraduate degree from Appalachian State University and began his career at then Moore Memorial Hospital in Pinehurst.  

During his time as health director for Richmond County, Jarrell completed both his master’s and doctorate degrees in Health Administration.  

Jarrell is the son of the late Randy and Carol Jarrell of Richmond County. He has one sister, Lori Long, who also lives in Rockingham. He is married to Leiah Jarrell, media specialist at Ellerbe Middle School. They have two daughters: Rachel, a nurse at Atrium Main in Charlotte, and Kennedy, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Both daughters were dually enrolled at RichmondCC and Richmond Senior High School. Kennedy received her Associate in Arts degree from RichmondCC upon high school graduation. 

Jarrell will be the guest of honor at the Valentine’s Gala, an annual scholarship fundraiser for the RichmondCC Foundation. 

Starting at 6:30 p.m., the Valentine’s Gala will include cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres and entertainment by DJ David Graham. Valentine packages, which include red carpet photos and a Valentine gift box, will be available for $100. 

Admission to the Gala is $50 per person. Corporate sponsorships start at $1,000. Sponsorship levels include complimentary tickets, Valentine packages and reserved seating. For information about tickets or sponsorships, please contact Foundation Administrative Assistant Lisa Harrelson at (910) 410-1808 or lsharrelson@richmondcc.edu.