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Gassner goes from wildlife management to food inspector

Gassner goes from wildlife management to food inspector

September 24th, 2017 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

Joe Gassner poses outside of the Cole County Health Department where he works as an environmental supervisor, inspecting restaurants and school cafeterias.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Joe Gassner feels lucky to have had jobs for more than 30 years that allow him to work with the environment and in the outdoors.

Always active in outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, Gassner worked with the state before retiring.

Now, he's back in the workforce as environmental supervisor for the Cole County Health Department, which allows him to stay close to home.

Gassner said food inspections of restaurants and school cafeterias make up the education aspect of his job.

"Showing them how to be safe in handling and preparing food is what we do," he said. "If it's cold, it needs to stay cold, and if it's hot, it needs to stay hot. The most important thing is to make sure bacteria doesn't grow because that's what gets people ill."

This part of his job is a new aspect of work for Gassner.

"l always enjoyed working with and being outdoors, but this opens your eyes," he said. "My background is with wildlife management, conservation and natural resources.

"When I was doing that work for the state, I was more focused on the wildlife and watching their environment and trying to understand what they needed to live. I also looked at how wildlife and people can coexist without negatively impacting each other."

Now Gassner is taking this examination to another level.

"There's so much good and bad bacteria," he said. "We look at how everything relates to each other. You take a cup of water out of a pond and look at it under a microscope, and you can't imagine that there's anything in there that is good."

Last year, the county health department investigated several cases of salmonella, and Gassner said they are remaining vigilant and on the lookout for potential cases.

"We have had some shigella concerns in day cares," he said. "That's a flu-like illness, and it's a big concern for child care facilities. It's hard to control once it gets going."