It was a surprise for Kim Cuppy when she received a call recently from City of Baker Mayor Zachman that she had been selected as the Citizen of the Year.
It may have been a surprise because she has been spending much of her time on the road as a traveling nurse since she stepped down as the head of the Fallon County Health Department just a few months ago.
For Cuppy, the time since then has been spent working in communities like Red Lodge and Minot for several days at a time.
Once the mayor told her, she said she felt very honored. “I was very thankful … thankful to our community and to be recognized.”
She said that she received the recognition for her work as the director of the county health department during the pandemic. “I was the head decision-maker for all things COVID. I put in a lot of hours to help keep our community safe.”
Cuppy said that she stepped down Dec. 31 and has been working as a traveling nurse at a variety of communities in both Montana and North Dakota.
“It was time for a change. I am also going to school now to be a nurse practitioner.”
“I have worked in Red Lodge, Jordan, Broadus and over in North Dakota at places like Minot and Dickinson,” she explained.
Her Subaru Outback has been able to keep up with the miles, she said. “The furthest I have gone is probably Red Lodge to the west (almost 300 miles) and Minot to the east (about 300 miles). I go about two or three days at a time and then I am home for a few days,” she explained.
“Unfortunately, Baker is pretty remote and you have to travel quite a ways,” she added with a chuckle.
Even when she received the award, it was moved back in the city council meeting schedule because of her travel requirements.
Cuppy credits the response of the community and the health department staff in the way the late fall outbreak was handled. “We really pulled together I think during COVID. People were really good and responsive to the health department guidelines.”
“We put together a task force to help with all things COVID. Everybody on that task force was extremely helpful. We had a great team,” she added.
Cuppy also help set up the guidelines late in the fall for how to handle the vaccine distribution in the region. “I left before we got any vaccine, but I was part of that planning process.”
Cuppy was the public director for eight years.
One of the benefits for being a traveling nurse has been the flexibility, she said. “I can pick the days that I want to work. If I have a heavy school schedule, I can just work only one or two days that week.”
“There is a lot of different experiences – I have worked at clinics, hospitals, extended care, rehab... I get a lot of different hands-on experience. But I also take a lot of what I learned at the health department into this job.”
She admits that she has stopped by the health department in Baker from time to time to help out.
She has three teenage daughters at home, with her new schedule enabling Cuppy to spend some time with the family or activities.
“It has been way more flexible and I have had way more family time, so it has been nice,” she added.
Cuppy is taking her courses online through Drexel University in Philadelphia, working towards becoming a family nurse practitioner.
She grew up in the Baker area and graduated from Baker High School in 1997.