NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- Judy Persichilli, the voice of truth and calm for so many people in the Garden State during the height of the COVID pandemic, is set to retire from her role as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health.
Most people were introduced to Persichilli as the woman instrumental in leading thousands of health agencies and first responders and encouraging millions of residents, every single day through a pandemic.
"We should never forget this. We cannot assume that something very bad will not happen," Persichilli said.
Persichilli was born a New Jersey girl, from nursing school in Trenton, to nurse. She decided intensive care would be her specialty.
"Because you were always on guard in intensive care, you always knew something could go right or go wrong, and it really helped me grasp that things could change very rapidly," she said.
Those were lessons that paid off for New Jersey.
Never taking anything for granted, Persichilli and the health department, under her leadership, immediately began thinking about the worst-case scenario after just hearing about a strange health crisis in China in 2019, thousands of miles away.
"We put together a crisis management team here in January to say, what if this came to our shores, of course in the back of our minds we said, this is never going to happen, and then on March 4 we got our first case," she said.
The pandemic transformed the work of her staff.
"I was asking them to do things they had never done before," she said. "Put up field medical stations, massive testing sites, vaccinate 70% of the adult eligible population within six months."
It has been the busiest 3.5 years of her career. This will be the third time Persichilli has announced retirement, she said.
"This time it will stick."
She promises she will relax every now and again to take trips to Florida.
People are contacting her to sit on various boards, and she knows she will be leaving New Jersey in good hands when she passes over the keys to her office.
"What I hope is that the legacy that I leave behind is a strong, resilient, confident Department of Health, and I believe that that is to be, I believe that they are here, they are here for the moment, they are here for whatever is put in front of them because they have already done it," she said.
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