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New director takes reins

October 3, 2018

LAUGHLIN — When Christopher Saxton earned his degree in biology, he didn’t realize he’d eventually end up in environmental health or be a health inspector.

Saxton is the new environmental health director for the Southern Nevada Health District. He began last July and is already busy getting acquainted with what’s happening in the area and recently attended the Laughlin Food Safety Partnership presentation.

Saxton is from the Kansas City, Mo., where he was born and raised, he said. And that’s where he went to college. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri.

“I don’t think any of us went to college thinking ‘I’m going to be a health inspector,’” said Saxton. “I just kind of fell into it, where I got my degree in biology and go out of college and thought, ‘well what am I going to do with this now?,’”

Saxton ended up working for a laboratory in Kansas City after college, he said. The work was doing the same lab work all the time and it became “boring,” he said. That’s when he moved into public health.

“I saw that Kansas City was hiring and they wanted someone with that life science degree since they deal with food borne illness, germs bacteria and everything that goes it with and thought ‘that could be interesting,’” he said. “Started there and been in it ever since.”

“I think that’s what I like about public health is you never know on any given day what’s going to happen,” said Saxton. “Really you’re just there as part of your job, you get a lot of satisfaction that you’re there to protect the health of the community.”

He was an environmental health specialist back for Kansas City in 2000, he said. He stayed there for a while and then moved onto a new jurisdiction around Jackson, a suburb of Kansas City, said Saxton. He was in that position for about 13 years, moving his way up to manager.

Saxton finished his master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois while in the Jackson position, he said. He headed to El Paso, Texas and lead their environmental health program and was there for three years, he added.

He’s in charge of the whole environmental health program, he said. The SNHD has three main areas — food operations, consumer health and the solid waste division.

The consumer health portion includes doing plan reviews, pool inspections and special operations which makes sure businesses related to body art, or tattooing, is up to code, he said.

The third division is related to solid waste and that includes vector inspections such as monitoring mosquito activity, said Saxton.

Public health in general is a broad term and there’s a lot involved with it.

“Public health can be a giant animal,” said Saxton. The main areas are epidemiology, where they track diseases and see if there is a problem and determine how to address it. The other area is prevention by conducting inspections whether it be pools or anywhere that serves food, he continued.

His work is such that no news is good news.

It’s one of those professions where if no one hears from them, it’s a good thing but if the public is hearing from public health, there’s an issue, said Saxton. Staying out of the news is usually the goal, he added.

There isn’t a definite schedule but he plans to make it down to Laughlin as much as possible and attend functions, such as the food safety partnership presentation, Saxton said.

“It’s good to get out to all these communities, get to know people and see what they want for their community and how we can help them get there,” he continued. “We’re all in this together.”

Staff is always looking at how to be more efficient, said Saxton.

“One thing we’re considering is we may want to base an inspector here,” said Saxton. “So we’re beginning discussions and deciding how that’s going to look.”

There are no promises it will happen, but it’s one of the things they are considering, he said.

There is an office in Laughlin so anyone who needs a food handler’s permit or has other needs or questions, that office is available, Saxton said.

The Laughlin Public Health Center, 55 Civic Way, can be reached at 702-759-1943. Send email to snhdpublicinformation@snhdmail.org.

The health center is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. daily.

Food handler safety training cards can be received Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to noon. That part of the center can be reached at 702-759-1060.

For more information about public health visit southernnevadahealthdistrict.org. The health district has several facilities and numbers depending on needs.

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