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 BLOOMINGTON - Bob Keller is intense when he relaxes.

"He'll be on the recliner with the TV on," said his wife, Jill. "But he'll also be reading a book and will have ear phones in, listening to music."

That intense individual - the director of the McLean County Health Department - is planning McLean County's response to any public health crisis. He also is the man who would help direct the response to an actual crisis - a bioterrorism attack, an influenza pandemic or another emergency involving infectious disease.

People who work with Keller - and his wife of 36 years - say he's a good person for that role.

"He'd keep a level head, tackle it and go forward," Jill Keller said.

Keller's knowledge, organization and time he has spent building the public health infrastructure would serve Central Illinois well in a public health crisis.

"He's good at keeping up-to-date ¦ and is not afraid to make a decision," said Cathy Coverston Anderson, health department health planner and bioterrorism preparedness coordinator.

Keller, of Normal, who will turn 59 on Jan. 8, graduated from Normal Community High School and served in the Air Force, where he became interested in public sector work.

"He was a very interesting person - and still is," Jill said. "He knew a lot about a lot of different things."

After receiving bachelor's and master's degrees from Illinois State University, he was hired at the health department in 1975.

"I enjoy working with Bob," said Tom Barr, executive director of the Center for Human Services, the county's mental health agency. "He has a real depth of knowledge. And he's practical. When you're working with him, you feel like you're working toward a solution. He has an attention to detail and he follows through."

Keller's intensity keeps health department employees on their toes, Coverston Anderson said.

"Working with him is kind of like playing chess - you have to be thinking a few steps ahead," she said. "He really encourages people to think beyond what (assignment) they're given."

Jan Morris, a health promotion program planner, said "He can be very intense. He expects the best from his employees but no more than he expects from himself."

Keller is committed to health and leads by example. He runs, lifts weights, is a vegetarian and is the oldest member of his softball team, said his wife, a retired Unit 5 teacher.

He reads a lot, plays guitar and is a Cubs and Bears fan.

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