The Logan County Health Department handles many duties in the course of their office functions. One of those jobs is that of the County Sanitarian and Public Health Specialist, Darrin Sage.
Sage has been with the Oklahoma State Health Department for eight years and in Logan County for the last six. Sage has a wide variety of experience in the restaurant and food industry prior to taking his current position.
Sage is better known around the Logan County area as the man most food managers see on at least a once a year basis for their annual inspections. The job of county sanitarian goes beyond that though. Sage inspects pools (public and non-public) such as the hotel pools or the City of Guthrie pool and even spas at the local hotels and bed and breakfast establishments.
The answering of nuisance complaints is another task that falls under the control of Sage. There are all sorts of nuisances. The most common one is calls on food establishments for roaches or mice. Those complaints are taken very seriously and in a couple of occasions the establishment has been shut down until a complete cleaning and elimination of the nuisance has been completed.
All is quiet now as it is not mosquito season, but Sage tells The News Leader that in the summer it has been so bad the past couple of years that the health department has passed out mosquito dunks to law enforcement officials so that if they see a stagnant water supply while out on patrol they can just throw one of the dunks into the water to hopefully abate the mosquito issue.
The county doe not have an animal control officer, so the issue of dealing with dog bite control falls to Sage. Sage said, “I deal with the people and those that are bit and the concern for rabies. The rabies shots are a very painful process and are avoided at all costs. Just because a nocturnal animal is out during the day, it does not mean it is rabid. We do not shot them. There is only one office that tests animals for rabies and that is in Oklahoma City.”
The county will usually issue a quarantine order and there are six registered quarantine places in Logan County. Sage said, “We are too small of a county to have animal control, so protecting the residents is our concern. We encourage everyone to have his or her animals vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian. That is the only way the state recognizes a legal rabies shot for the animals.”
The part of the job that takes the most time is the inspections of retail food establishments. Any business that sells food to the public, i.e. bars, convenience stores, public schools, hospitals and restaurants all get inspected at least once a year. Sage does not inspect food-manufacturing businesses as they are done separately. Sage said, “Education is the biggest issue. Training and knowledge will cure most issues that are surfaced during an inspection. The manager is usually the best teacher. I even teach a course once a month at Guthrie Job Corps as part of the culinary arts program. It is a two-hour class and will teach most of the basic food service requirements to anyone who wants to learn. Most locations enjoy the information I provide.”
Violations can range from a dirty fork to a dirty wall to rodent and insect nuisance abatement. All violations are treated differently. Some are classified as fix it now before Sage leaves the building while others may be; you have 30 days to fix the problem.
In the end, Sage says, “The gratifying part of the job is the ability to work with the people to get the problem fixed and that the people take ownership for the fix.”
Sage went on to say, “In my years in Logan County, I have had very few issues with needing to close businesses down but when I do it is because it is a serious enough violation that it needs to be fixed right away. I also have had issues were businesses try to open without proper permits that I have had to close. I had one business burn down shortly after I cited them for the exact issue that caused the fire.”
There have been a lot of headlines lately on cruise ships and food handling. Sage said, “In Logan County, we have a lot of places in compliance and following all the rules.”
So the next time you see Darrin Sage in your establishment it is to educate and help, not see how long of a list of violations he can find.