What do happy memories, sad goodbyes, 40 years and the colors purple and silver have in common? Absolutely nothing, unless they are all uniquely connected to bid farewell to Lynn Flen, an icon of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition program.
Flen, deputy director of program operations and nutrition services for WIC, is retiring after four decades with the program. Her last day at DPH is May 23.
In a room filled with purple, silver and white decorations, DPH staff, family and friends from across the state gathered at 2 Peachtree on May 9 to congratulate Flen on her retirement and to share some of their fondest memories of working with their colleague.
Several teammates joked about Flen not only being a great mentor but also being their “doctor.” According to each of them, she could accurately diagnose any ailment they had. And in several cases, her prognoses were confirmed by each individual’s primary care physician. One former colleague joked that she had once been his mechanic—a very good one he added.
Although she couldn’t be there in person, DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., sent a heartfelt video message to Flen, in which she teasingly reminded her of the book she had written, titled “Quitting Is Not an Option.” Additionally, Flen and her guests heard the words of a proclamation from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office recognizing her for her years of dedicated service.
Colleagues and peers often use the word “legend” to describe Flen. Admired by WIC staff nationwide, Flen has been a part of Georgia’s WIC program since its inception in 1974. For four decades, Flen has worked tirelessly with the program to ensure successful health outcomes for millions of Georgia WIC participants.
“Lynn is the epitome of a servant leader,” said Georgia WIC Finance Manager Hugh Warren. “Lynn sets the benchmark of what a good state employee should be.”
Flen began her career as a WIC clerk in the Fulton County Health Department, where she was often the first point of contact for participants. Eventually moving to the state office, Flen became Georgia WIC’s Interim Program Director, leading the program’s state and local efforts.
“Lynn Flen is amazing,” said DPH WIC Director Debra Keyes. “Few people can say they’ve had the opportunity to work in almost every facet of the program. Lynn has led the program during tough times, often being the golden thread that was instrumental in keeping the program thriving. Her genuine compassion, dedication and utmost integrity to WIC cannot be replaced.”
Longtime colleague Blanche DeLoach Moreman, nutrition services director for District 4 Public Health in LaGrange, attributed Flen’s ability to make practical decisions from the experience she gained by working in various capacities of the WIC program.
“One trait that everyone loves about Lynn is that she has worked on the front lines,” Moreman said. “She has always been a good leader, a good steward of WIC dollars and an advocate for the staff and the participants. What more can you ask for?”