In 1990 I accepted a position with Union County Environmental Health as a "Sanitarian,” a position that is now known as an Environmental Health Specialist. I had no idea what I was getting into, only that it would not be remotely related to my long-held dream career, a wildlife biologist. It was a wild and crazy time to enter the profession as we were extremely busy, and the training program was nothing like what is offered today. It felt a bit like being thrown to the wolves, but I loved it. I went on to work in Mecklenburg County, as well as serving a brief stint as the Environmental Health Coordinator for Montgomery County.
Fortunately for me, I had great mentors. Most of the people who trained me are now retired or have moved on to other areas within the field of public health. Three of these guys I still see on a semi-regular basis and I'm proud to count them as friends. Drew Walker helped with my training in Union County and to him I can credit my first solo soil evaluation (Drew sat in the truck and read the paper while I evaluated the lot!). In Mecklenburg County Philo Walker taught me how to treat others fairly and equitably. Philo was known for the saying "we've got to give them something.” He would work hard to find a way to issue a septic permit for someone rather than focusing on the negatives of the lot/tract that we were working on. Kelly Randall was my supervisor in Mecklenburg County. Kelly was a no-nonsense type guy who loved to say, “just the facts ma’am!” I might not always have liked what Kelly had to say, but I now tell him that I think he was a genius when compared to some of the management practices that I see today!
These three guys were professionals and had the unique ability to balance their authority with the rules and regulations that defined how we were to operate, along with meeting the needs of our customers who were essentially caught up in the vortex. Now that’s a skill set that few regulators can fully develop! These guys are what I would call the “best of the best” and this post is my way to show them the love and respect that they deserve. My hat is off to Drew, Philo, and Kelly - the best of the best!