Maura Valley, who became the Island’s public health spokesperson during the Covid-19 pandemic, is retiring at the end of the month from her job as health agent for the town of Tisbury.

After her more than 30 years of service in the town’s health department, longtime board of health member Michael Loberg praised Ms. Valley’s calm, confident leadership throughout the Covid crisis.

“She was the voice of the Island, basically, for quite a while on this,” Mr. Loberg told the Gazette this week.

“Most of us did not have much background in immunotherapy, [and] it was a pleasure to see how she waded in,” he said.

Wading — and sometimes jumping — into new challenges was nothing new for Ms. Valley, who took a fateful plunge in 1989 when she moved to the Vineyard for love.

Originally from South Boston, she had started nursing studies at Northeastern University before switching to jobs in financial services. In the late 1980s, Ms. Valley visited Martha’s Vineyard to see a childhood friend and was introduced to the man who would become her husband, Island resident George Valley.

“And 34 years later, we’re still married,” she said with a smile, during an interview at the town hall annex on High Point Lane.   

After moving to the Vineyard, Ms. Valley worked first as receptionist for a veterinary clinic and then with a home health care agency before joining the Tisbury staff in 1991 as secretary for the board of health.

Over the ensuing decades, Ms. Valley has seen the health department grow — and she has grown with it, promoted first to assistant health agent and then, when previous health agent Tom Pachico retired in 2015, to the top job.

“That decision made the whole board look good,” Mr. Loberg recalled.

When Covid-19 hit the Island in early 2020, Ms. Valley soon emerged as the spokesperson for health agents Island-wide, who collaborated across town borders to meet the crisis with information and resources for Island residents and visitors alike.

“We really worked as a team: We all took a role that suited our skills [and] I ended up being the public information person,” Ms. Valley said.

“It was a lot of work; it was a lot of pressure; but it was also kind of awesome to be able to be there for the community and build that trust and give them the information,” she said. 

Other health agents pored over regulations, met with local contractors to safeguard site workers, tracked contacts with infected Islanders and sourced Covid tests — all without regard to geographical boundaries, she said.

“We’re one community [and] we need to look at ourselves as one community,” she said. “With public health, there are no borders.”

Ms. Valley is one of several Island public health officials to step away this year. Omar Johnson, the former West Tisbury health agent, stepped down in January. Matt Poole, the longtime Edgartown health agent, retired this spring after 26 years in town hall. 

Among other achievements during her career, Ms. Valley has played a major role in developing the town’s denitrification regulations, Mr. Loberg said, noting that the board of health is a regulatory body.

“The board has done a good job setting guidelines and priorities, [and] when it comes to the execution, she’s tireless and focused,” he said.

“The testing we’ve done and all the nitrogen we’ve actually removed from the Lake Tashmoo watershed has set us apart from other towns,” Mr. Loberg said.

Ms. Valley’s philosophy on denitrification is to stay ahead of the state, which is continuing to refine and update its own regulations.

“If you can address things locally, [you’re] better off than waiting for the state,” she said.

As she prepares to step down at the end of the month, Ms. Valley has already handed her office over to Drew Belsky, a health inspector who is taking over her job in the new year.

“He’s going to have to get up to speed, [but] one thing about this job is you’re never going to get bored, ” Ms. Valley said.

“You could have a hoarding situation one day, a septic [failure] another day — it’s always something different,” she said.

Ms. Valley still plans to work. She has already started her own new job as administrative assistant for the West Tisbury community preservation committee, working up to 10 hours a week.

“I saw the ad and said, ‘I know how to work for a town,’” she said with a smile.

The rest of her time in retirement remains an open question, although walks with her dogs, visits with family and warm-weather bike rides are all on Ms. Valley’s agenda.

“I don’t know what the next chapter is, but I’m looking forward to it,” she said.