Earlier this year, the Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees hired two new environmental specialists to monitor local public health practices.
Don Pierpont, of Wheaton, and Stephanie Shaw, of Granby, were hired as Barry County's environmental public health specialists (EPHS) in January.
"All the people at the health department are friendly and good to work with," said Pierpont. "Everyone is willing to lend a hand whether its their job or not."
Barry County EPHS are in charge of all childcare, food establishment and septic installation inspections in Barry County. Pierpont and Shaw also spend a large amount of time answering questions and offering on-site instruction to the public.
"We're always available to answer questions," said Shaw. "We would rather answer questions and get things taken care of before there is a problem. Most people want to do the right thing. They just don't always know how."
Pierpont agrees that they have an open door policy and adds that he often helps direct citizens in the right direction regarding questions outside his area of expertise.
"I have to get back to some people," said Pierpont. "I would rather tell them I don't know than tell them the wrong answer."
Pierpont and Shaw are also in charge of permitting food establishments and wastewater systems, water testing and some public education.
"I like all aspects of this position because nothing is the same from day to day," said Pierpont. "You wear different hats all the time."
Although variation is Pierpont's favorite aspect of his new position, it is also the most difficult because he has to remember rules and regulations for each public health issue he deals with.
"The most difficult thing is remembering all the rules and regulations, because they are all different," said Pierpont. "We're always jumping from one thing to the next."
Pierpont has over eight years professional experience with an emphasis in water and wastewater management, and Shaw has around 13 years of professional experience with an emphasis in food management.
Pierpont has an associates degree in hazardous materials from Crowder College and a bachelor of science degree in environmental health from Missouri Southern State University. He carries an A license in wastewater, a D license in water and a class three distribution license from the Department of Natural Resources.
"I think it is an interesting field to get into as far as preserving water," said Pierpont. "After I received my associates, I wanted to further my education to get back into a regular environmental position."
Prior to taking the EPHS position with the Barry County Health Department, Pierpont worked in water and wastewater for the City of Monett and other industries for over eight years.
Shaw has a bachelor of science in environmental health from Missouri Southern State University and a certificate in ecolonomics, which introduces environmentally sound profitable practices to industries.
"I started in environmental health and realized how important food safety was," said Shaw. "As I studied more, I found out how many other areas are effected by public health."
Before taking the EPHS position, Shaw worked in food safety for eight years. She served as a consumer safety officer for the Food and Drug Administration in Seattle, Wash. She has also worked as a lab technician and chemist at food management firms, pet food industries and petroleum companies.
"School led us in this direction," said Pierpont. "This position deals with many environmental aspects. That's what I liked about it. It involves public health and wellness, but is broad."
Together Pierpont and Shaw have a good working relationship, which allows them to monitor both aspects of their job with a high level of experience.
"We do the same thing and basically only split our time," said Pierpont. "We basically feed off each other, because she's been in food more and I've been in wastewater more."
Since taking their new position with the Barry County Health Department, Pierpont and Shaw have undergone numerous hours of advanced training.
Some of the environmental education courses included: basic and advanced installers, on-site wastewater treatment installation and advanced treatment installation.
In the future, Pierpont and Shaw hope to introduce some new public health practices in Barry County.
"I think we need some kind of positive way to encourage positive aspects of inspection," said Shaw. "Currently you are only in the newspaper if there's a problem with your food establishment."
Shaw would like to enact a gold star program to encourage positive health practices. She would also like to see more food handler education in local food establishments.
For more information on the Barry County EPHS, call the Health Department at 847-2114.