- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - There were times early on during his time on the Mississippi Coast when Dr. Robert Travnicek wondered if he’d have to freshen up his resumé - not because he didn’t do his job, but because he did it too well.

Recently retired from his position as District 9 health officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, Travnicek can now look back and look at those days and laugh.

Travnicek could be blunt and to the point when it came to protecting the public and wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers if it needed to be done.

His tough-love methods must have paid off because Travnicek, now 74, recently had a portion of 45th Avenue in Gulfport renamed “Dr. Robert Travnicek Boulevard.”

He said the honor, which was the culmination of 24 years of service to South Mississippi, was the proudest day of his life.

“I’m still scratching my head. Being alive and having that happen is still mind-boggling,” he said. “This is something that public servants need to aspire to.”

George Schloegel, former mayor of Gulfport and Travnicek’s longtime friend, was at the Jan. 30 ceremony at the Harrison County Health Department building.

“It’s appropriate,” Schloegel said, “because he built that facility and built all that the facility represents, including all of the professional staff that works out of there.

“He’s a wonderful friend and has been an asset to all of South Mississippi like none other that I have known.”

During 24 years on the coast, the Wilber, Neb., native directed the nationally recognized Stroke Belt Grant Project, worked with area agencies to offer health screenings and immunizations, helped establish school-based clinics and a Hazard Analysis and Critical Points Checklist for food-service facilities and was a guest speaker for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration training programs.

The aforementioned accomplishments don’t even begin to encompass all Travnicek accomplished along the coast.

In an interview, Travnicek wondered aloud if he would have been as successful - or would have even lasted much more than a year or two - had it not been for a Sun Herald restaurant inspection series he participated in.

When he arrived, Travnicek said, he was considered just a Yankee who talked funny. He had a hard time establishing any sort of authority. The series changed all that, and resulted in shutdowns of several regional restaurants and sweeping changes along the coast. Travnicek said he believes the series sent a message to South Mississippi that he meant business - and, more important, he knew what he was talking about.

“It was always a little contentious toward those restaurants,” Travnicek said, “but once that ran on the front page of the Sunday-edition Sun Herald the party was over and I never had another nickel’s worth of trouble.”

Years later, Travnicek became well known for helping to lead the rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina.

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