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Jeff Ragan oral history interview

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Jeff Ragan oral history interview
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University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program

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Oral history ( local )
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Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.
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interviewed by E. Charlton Prather.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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C53-00027 ( USFLDC DOI )
c53.27 ( USFLDC Handle )

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Florida Public Health Oral History Project

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subfield code a C53-000272 USFLDC DOI0 245 Jeff Ragan oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by E. Charlton Prather.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.Transcription and timecoding of this interview is underway and will be added when complete. At that time the audio link will be replaced with the OHPi player link (player supporting syncronized audio and full-text transcription).7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local710 University of South Florida.b Library.Special & Digital Collections.Oral History Program.1 773 t USF College of Public Health oral history project4 856 u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?c53.27


xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
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text Charlton Prather: Well, Mr. Jeff Ragan, let me say thank you for your willingness to come this morning.
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Jeff Ragan: My pleasure.
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CP: And for our viewers, we have with us Mr. Jeff D. Ragan, a long-time Director of Environmental Health for Sarasota County and a long-time advocate of the matters of the publics health and its environment. As an employee and fellow worker in Floridas public health system, has spent essentially his entire professional life in environmental health and has seen a lot of the evolving history of Floridas public health through his work there and his involvement with the statewide program. Mr. Ragan, its a pleasure to welcome you, and I thank you for your willingness to come.
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JR: Thank you.
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CP: What in the world got you interested in public health?
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JR: Well, when I got out of collegeI didnt get out of collegewhen I got out of high school, I wanted to get into some type of work that I felt would be important and something that I could make a difference. And also, I guess, I was a little bit selfish, that I wanted to find some kind of work that would be a retirement system and had some benefits, although I knew that getting into state work was very underpaid at that time. I think the salary was about 175 dollars a month.
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CP: Oops, oops, oops.
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JR: I could have done better, but I tried getting into the post office, and they had so many applicants there, and they were taking the higher ones, and there just werent that many jobs. Plus, the fact is, as you probably know, my father, John L. Ragan Sr., was with the Manatee County Health Department.
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He was the director there for a while until they had a health officer; he was a pharmacist so they did call him doctor, by the fact that he was a pharmacist. He had been in that many years, and my brother Johnoldest brother John, who is deceased nowworked for the Lake County Health Department in Tavares.
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CP: Yes.
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JR: And he worked there 25 years and retired. And then my brother Walt, who was in the service, and he went through the GI Bill, he got a degree in sanitary engineering. And he then worked for the state board of health before he went with the federal government, in which, as you know, David B. Lee and Bert Wish was up there at that particular time.
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CP: Yes.
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JR: So, basically, I had a background in environmental health or a health department.
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CP: You surely did, a whole family worth of it.
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JR: Yes, Walts wife was a schoolteacher, and my mothers a schoolteacher, and Johns wife was a schoolteacher. Although, my wife, Juanita, was a nurse, so that had a background in public health as well. At that particular time, as you know, you had to write up, put your application in to the state board of health, which was then in Jacksonville, and then you had to go up for an interview.
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When I went up for an interview, naturally, I was only 20 years old and scared. And Dr. Sowder, naturallywas more or less chairman of the panel in all of his department or bureau chiefwas there to ask you questions, and what you wanted to do, why you wanted to do this, why you wanted to be in public health.
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And so, fortunately, I got a letter back, saying I was approved to go to school. And at that time, they had a three-month environmental health course in Gainesville with the Alachua County Health Department in cooperation with the University of Florida and then the state board of health in Jacksonville where the laboratory facility is, which I think Hugh Butner and Mrs. Jefferies headed that.
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So that was quite a course and quite an experience there with Dr. Hall. And a lot of the consultants from the state board of health came down and helped in. And at that time, they built the privies in the health unit and sold them, or gave them to people that couldnt afford a septic tank system. So we had that as part of our project. And I think it was about ten in our class, and most of them in the training class, or study, were already in the county health unit or county health departments.
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CP: They were already employed and were working.
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JR: And they sent them to school to, I guess, better their training, and they were paid full salary, whereas I only had a stipend of 150 dollars, and then they paid for the travel back and forth. But when I got out, there wasnt that many jobs because jobs werent that plentiful. And most of them, as I said, were already employed; the other few we had, they went to different places.
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So mine wasI started school in April of 49 and got out in January of 49. And then they had an opening up in Live Oak, halfway between Lake City and Tallahassee. And that was a very rural area, to say the least. And at that time, the county public health units, some had, or health departments, had one county, some had two counties, and some had three counties in their jurisdiction.
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Suwannee County was Dixie and Lafayette and the Suwannee; and I think Dr. Johns was the health director there. And I worked there for three or four months, broadening my education and training. And that was
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CP: Was there another sanitarian there?
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JR: There was. Uh, Mr. Young was sanitarian in the Suwannee, and I think he had one in each of the other counties, so there were three total. And budgets then were very, I guess, minimum, and they didnt have that much equipment. Enforcement was somewhat difficult or impossible; most of the people were local, and they tried to work with people.
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I had some experience along that line; somebody had complained about one of the county commissioners up there, about a trailer park, and I was going to investigate it, and then they thought, maybe, that they should talk to the person first. So you learn, I guess, that you dont go charging out to the situation, although I was trying to do a good job and do it the right way, the way I was trained.
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And also, I wanted to benefit myself, and I had filled an application for registered sanitarian, the national association over in Denver, and I sent in that, became a registered sanitarian, which a lot of the individuals didnt do. I think that Fred Safay was the consultant in that area, and I think that he was a retired general that was up in that area, who was the regional consultant in environmental health matters.
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But I didnt stay there that long, and from there I, naturally, wanted to get back closer to Manatee County and Bradenton. So there was an opening in Pinellas County, one of the men that was in thetwo of the men that was in the training courseone of them was Bert Williams; he was supervisor of the food program, and Lyle Chaffee was supervisor of the milk program.
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So I knew Mr. Williams. And when something came up, I applied down there; then they asked me to come down for an interview. And Alan Henry then was the sanitarian engineer in charge of the department; it was in an old schoolhouse building downtown, by the City Hall, which needed a lot of repairs.
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CP: (laughs) I remember that building.
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JR: Yeah. And so, when I got there, they said, Well, we really have an opening for somebody. They had passed the city ordinance for beauty parlors and barbershops, and they thought maybe I might want to do that. And I said, Well, Ill be happy to do whatever you tell me to do, but I prefer not to get into barber shops and beauty parlors, especially beauty parlors, being I was only 20 going on 21, that I thought theyd need somebody with a little bit more maturity to work with the cosmetologists.
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And one of the gentlemen there, Mr. Pritchard, said hed be happy to do that. He wasnt that old, I would say he was probably 35, 36, but he had coal grey hair, very distinguished person, and he said hed do that. So I got into the food program there and worked in that for about six or seven years; worked my way up as the assistant supervisor for the food program. And naturally, I still wanted to get down closer to home, be it Manatee or Sarasota County.
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And unfortunately, when the time comes, Mr. Williams retired. I assumedand you should never assume; thats what my wife tells me anywaywhen the time comes to make a promotion, that time Mr. Henry left to go over to the city to get a better job there with the public works. And they brought in a Mr. Dunn, who was the engineer, to be over environmental health, and he in turn brought one of his friends down, where he was from, to be the food supervisor, and nobody told me.
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CP: Oh boy.
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JR: So when he came in, and I introduced myself, he said he was the new food supervisor. And I said, Oh, is that right? And he said, Yeah. And, naturally, I asked what kind of qualifications do you have and this, that, and the other. And so I went to Dr. Ballard, who was the health director there and told him my problem and told him that I was very disappointed, and I didnt think it was very fair.
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And he said he agreed with me, but he said, I dont interfere with my department head, and Mr. Dunn had made a decision, and, therefore, theres not very little I can do. He said, I can give youwe can give you a raise, give you a little bit more money. And I said, No, its the principle of the thing with me. A raise would be nice, but why would it take something like this to give me a raise? Why wouldnt I get it on my merit?
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And at that time, they did have, as you know, a state merit system, different from they have now from personnel; where you had to take examinations, and they had different levels and different qualifications.
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CP: Yes, I remember them.
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JR: In the beginning, they didnt require any education to get in environmental health with the health department.
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CP: College education that is, yeah.
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JR: And then later on they required that you had to have a degree, but unfortunatelyI guess as a step in the right directionthey didnt say what the degree had to be in, so you could have a degree in forestry; you could have a degree in public relations; you could have a degree in just about anything, and it had nothing to do with public health.
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And then, later on, they required a college degree or training or training plus a college degree. If you had three or four years of experience, would substitutes so many years for the college degreeor college work and what have you. And now, naturally, it is more strict than what it should be, and they have more certification.
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And I think that is very, very excellent. In St. Pete, as I said, I specialized in food. I worked most all of the districts, and we had some food handlers training programs then started. And then I was in the area for Gulf Coast Conferences, and I got elected as chairman of that in environmental health.
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And I had written to Manatee County to see if I could transfer down in there, and that was Dr. Neil was there then. Although, Dr. Wright was the first health director there in Manatee County, and he split his time between that and Sarasota. So when Dr. Neil was there, Dr. Wright was in Sarasota County. So I wrote
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CP: Which Neil was this? John?
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JR: I think it was John Neil. He went up north somewhere to a job, and his administrator went with him.
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CP: Yes, and Im having some trouble, but he didfrom Manatee, yeah.
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JR: Right, I think he, from Manatee, came to Hillsborough County, Dr. Neil did, as health director at that time. But anyway, he and my father didnt get along that well, and when I wrote to applybecause I guess my father had been there so long when he came in. And I guess maybe there was a little bit of friction there, so naturally, he didnt want me working there. But, however, when I work for somebody, I work for them.
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I will give them the benefit of my experience from my comments, but whatever the last word is, thats the way its going to be. Ive certainly never been insubordinate with anybody. And in all the years I worked for the health department, I dont think theres anything in my personnel file that has any reprimand or anything derogatory, even though I got, I think, about three or four files, about that thick
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CP: Of personnel papers?
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JR: right down in the district office. So then I wrote to Dr. Wright in Sarasota County, and he was expanding there. They had some extra work that they wanted to do, mainly in subdivisions where they were doing test holes, percolation tests about septic tanks, and whether or not the soil was suitable. So he said that he would like for me to come down and work for him as a field supervisor
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CP: Oh good.
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JR: because he had met me through the conferences.
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CP: So let me interrupt, whats the Gulf Coast Conference that you
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JR: Gulf Coast Health Conference, it covers ten counties, and it covers the health directors and nurses, environmental specialists, clerks, and all; and every quarter they would meet and exchange information and ideas and just have a one-day seminar, and they would meet at different places. And so through that is what, I guess, maybe caught Dr. Wrights eye when I was chairman of that; we got to know each other.
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CP: Very good, very good. All right, thanks for that little pearl.
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JR: Right, so before I came down toI went down to interview with Dr. Wright; thats W.L. Wright, as you know, he went up to be
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CP: Local.
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JR: local, director of local health services of, bureau of local health services. It doesnt exist now, more or less.
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CP: Doesnt exist at all; no remnant of it at all.
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JR: Thats true. And so he wanted me to get some experience because I did food and dairy work and pasteurization plants and subdivisions and septic tanks and some of the other programs. Since in bigger counties, as you know, you specialize, and you become very highly qualified. And then when you get into a small county, where you do just about everything, theres a lacking there, and sometimes on the test that was difficult; if you specialize on something, and they give you a general test, you didnt do as well as someone else.
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CP: Yes.
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JR: We had that. So I told him that I would get that experience before I came down, and then he indicated that I could only transfer so much sick leave and so much vacation leave because I guess they didnt like for you to accumulate that or have that much time to be off. So then heI said, Well, its October.
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And I said, Thats when they normally give raises. And he said, Well, how much raise do you normally get over there? Well, they were only giving, shall I say, the lower echelon, myself, 10 dollars a month, whereas supervisors got 25 dollars a month. So I hedged a little bit, and I just said to Dr. Wright, I said, Well, some of the employees get 25 dollars. That wasnt a lie now.
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CP: No, thats not a lie.
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JR: So he said, Okay, Ill give you 25 dollars, so
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CP: (laughs) Very good.
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JR: So when I started, evidently, he forgot and made a mistake, and he gave me 35 dollars. And I thought, Boy that was really something. Then I took the exam when I got to Sarasota County and passed that and got promoted to the next level, and I got a raise in that. So I thought, Boy, I was really making the money. I think I made about 270-280 dollars a month.
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CP: My gracious life.
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JR: And that time if I could ever make 1,000 dollars a month, that that would be the top dollar; I thought that I was really doing it.
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JR: The person I had worked for in the summer, in the clothing business, wanted me to come back and, you know, and go in partnership with him and that I could make more money, but I was still looking at the benefits of the retirement system and other benefits that it had. And at that time, probably 10 or 15 percent benefits, whereas the benefits now, with your salary, is about plus 35 percent; its a lot higher than it was before.
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CP: Yes, it is.
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JR: And in Sarasota, we had to do everything there, and as I said
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CP: You mean each sanitarian was a generalist?
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JR: Was a generalist in their district. We had three district, three district field supervisors, which I was one, and everybody did everything in that particular area, which covered everything. And, as you know, fortunately or unfortunately, weve lost so many programs over the years. The legislature in their wisdom didnt want to give us the money to do the job.
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But they would create another agency and fund them with any kind of money and any kind of positions that they needed, but they wouldnt give us the money. And we had regional laboratories, ours was up in Tampa, where we had to take milk samples, and water samples, at that time, and animal specimens up there to check for rabies.
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And we had to drive those up and back, and then later, we had our own individual water treatmentwater-testing equipment there in our own laboratory, we saved a lot of time and effort, and that was a big improvement. But Id like to go over some of the programs that we had at that particular time that we were responsible for
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CP: Good.
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JR: and also indicate those programs that are no longer with us because theyve transferred them over to some other state agency, which certainly is their prerogative, but there, again, it seems as though public health or environmental health will always seem to be a step-child of everybody else.
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Everybody else got the money, but for some reason, they didnt provide the money with the local health departments. Unless there was an epidemic, or food poisoning outbreak, or something, you usually didnt get the attention. And I really enjoyed, in the old days, working for the state board of health. It wasnt work because I enjoyed it, I was happy with it.
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But then they changed from one agency name, to another agency name, to another agency name. And it seemed to have less and less autonomy and gave more control back to the state or to the districts, when they had regional districts. And it just seemed they werent the same when they split all of that up and started changing it and
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CP: Was it for the worst yet, or for the better?
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JR: Well, in my opinion, I think it was for the worst, and I think that the legislature may have felt, after awhile, that it wasnt working, but I guess they didnt want to indicate that it wasnt working, that they hoped it would straighten itself out; but in my opinion, it never did straighten itself out, it just got worse. As far as
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CP: Its hard to say that I made a mistake.
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JR: Well, yes, thats putting it mildly, but I can see both sides of it. The state at that time, or the districts, wanted to get more control of the county public health units, which was a real working relationship as being a joint venture with the Board of County Commissioners, in which the county commissioners put up a certain percent of the money, and the state put up a certain percent.
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And at times, the county commissioners put up more money than what the state put up. But yet the state also said, or had to approve, who the health officer was when they hired, and I guess when they fired, they had to concur because that was a joint venture and because that was a good joint relationship. And it still exists in most counties.
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CP: Yes, it still operates that way.
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JR: Although, in the beginning, there werent that many counties inhad a health department. Some had city health departments. And reversing back to St. Pete, they had a city health department. And then as you know, all of them merged with the state under a county health department. And those that would work so long were transferred over with full seniority, and then they went in to social security, if they didnt have it.
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So therefore, if they had a lot of time, they were probably making more money towould get more money retired than they would be to continue to work. Unfortunately, some of them, as you know, working with the city and political system and that type of thing, had some of them didnt always have the best of interest or habits.
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It is hard to break habits that you have, existed that may not then comply with what you needed to do at that particular time. But on the exams, we nowthey dont have the exam, they have the experience, and that you have in your degrees.
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But it is ironic that, I guess, I have taken so many exams, especially in Tampa, but Ill just diverse for a minute before I go into the programs and thatas you know, the merit system was in Jacksonville, where the state board of health was at that time, and I got a notice to go up there for an examination.
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And I was quite young then, in the 20s. So I went up the night before because the exam was the next morning and, as you know, you can leave like the center part of the state and maybe it would be 90 [degrees] and get up to Jacksonville, and the next morning it could be 40; if youre in a lightweight suit, its pretty cold.
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And that wasI stayed there at the George Washington, which no longer exists, so I went up there, and I had my little card with me that they say, you know, Youre eligible to take this exam. And I went in there and they looked at me, you know, and I looked at them, and I said, Im here to take an examination for sanitarian two or three, whatever the position was. And they said, Well, we dont give an examination today.
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CP: Whoops.
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JR: I said, What do you mean you dont give an examination? She said, No, we dont give an examination. You must have the wrong date, the wrong time. Youre in error. And I said, No maam, Im not in error.
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I wasnt bashful at all. I figured that sometimes you had to speak up. And working with people, you had to be positive but extremely nice because you, at that time, you didnt get very far; there was very little regulations, and people didnt like inspectors, so you had to sell yourself before you could sell the department.
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So I said, Well, heres my card; now, what are we going to do? Am I going to get the examination or not? Ive come all the way up here at my time and my expense, and I want to take the exam. Now, are you going to give me the exam? So then they didnt know what to do.
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CP: Uh-oh.
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JR: So they went back, and huddled, and came back. And they said, Well, well be in touch with you, Mr. Ragan. And I said, Well, youre not going to give me an exam? Well, no we dont have an exam set up to give you. I said, Okay. So about a month later, I got a letter back saying I passed.
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CP: Oh, really? (laughs)
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JR: So I didnt argue with that, you know. I thought that was pretty good. But diversing back, over in St. Pete, when I did inspection work, they had aits ironicthey had a city ordinance buton foodwhere you had to have a permit, and I think permits were a big dollar.
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CP: Yes.
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JR: But unfortunately, whoever wrote it didnt write that there was anything in there for administrative action or for punitive action. But anyway, I was in one place in there inspecting andnot inspecting, I went in there to eat. This was a good diner, and they had a good pie; it was banana pie, I liked that.
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And so I went in to eat lunch and this girl came out to waiterwaitressand she didnt know me, which thats fine. And so I sat down, and I think I got a glass of milk and ordered; I drank that and noticed in there that they hadnt donethe glass had lipstick on there.
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CP: This is the glass youre drinking from?
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JR: Yes, so I said, Could you get me another glass of milk, youve got lipstick on it. No, she rumbled something and went back and got me something. And then I asked for a piece of pie, and she gave me a piece of pie with a fork. And the fork had lipstick all over it.
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CP: (laughs)
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JR: So I said, You got lipstick on your fork. Do you have anything here that doesnt have lipstick on it? And she said, Well, Ill have you know, we put this in a dishwasher, and it goes through it at 180 degrees temperature, and kills all the bacteria, and everything. And I said, Well, that may be fine. You could sterilize a bed pan, but I dont want to eat out of it.
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So with that, she pulled off to get the manager now. And they had a porthole there where the swinging door was, and he came up there. And he looked in there and saw me and knew who I was. And he went back, and she came up and gave meanother girl came up and gave me the check, and I left, but I thought that was ironic.
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But it wasnt that glamorous in the early days because, as I said, you had very little control and very little regulations. They had the regulations, but you didnt have any enforcement teeth in it, and I guess sailing a ship is better a part of valid than others. But as that did come along in Sarasota County, you had to file charges with individuals through the state attorneys office.
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You had to file a probable cause affidavit and get all the data and all the stuff and thenits just the only system you had at that time. And maybe itd get to court late, and then, if it had been complied with, then the judge would just dismiss the charge. You know, the judge sometimes would ask, Well, whats up with judging on the fine? I wont adjudicate him guilty.
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Well, you know, most judges wouldnt adjudicate you guilty; theyd maybe fine you and then withhold adjudication. And that was, unfortunately, very frustrating to do that. And there werent many local ordinances, which we had a lot of local ordinances set up and initiated because of that to work it. But I had to figure out a system of how we could do better. And I said, Theres got to be a better way of doing that.
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And all the counties were having the samesome was better with their permit system, some was using television, was coming in, or they would get reports, and then they would apprehend those. So I decided Id take a law enforcement course on my own. So I knew the sheriff fairly well, and he sponsored me to go to a law enforcement course, and this was a course of, at that time, 120 hours and every Thursday night and all day Saturday and all day Sunday.
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And I said, Well, if thats going to help, this is what I want to do. So I did take the course and finished at an auxiliary course and became a bonded special deputy sheriff, which really doesnt mean that much, but it does open the doors to law enforcement.
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CP: Oh yes.
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JR: So then I talked to a lot of them in there and said, you know, Can you help me with some of these cases? And I would like to use law enforcement people. And they saidnaturally, the sheriff said, Well, our people have to witness it. And I said, Yes, I realize that from taking the course.
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And so when I got a bad problem that was difficult to handle because the other lengthy time it took to go through the courts, I would get the deputy sheriff to meet mebecause then, at that time, I had a sheriff radio in my car and a walkie-talkie, and when I went in bad areas, I would turn that thing on, and maybe it might have saved my life; I dont know.
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And so itd come out, and most of the deputies didnt know much about public health laws and all, and Id tell them that I want a citation issued to this individual for so and so. And theyd say, Well, Im not sure. And theyd call back and say, Yes, if Mr. Ragan is there, you issue it. So he said, Well, will you help me write it?
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So Id help write it up there, and it would get in court in probably two to three weeks instead of two to three months, and Id always get a conviction, which was excellent, and a lot of counties couldnt understand how we could do that. And I remember one case, because a whole lot of them was garbage, and some of them was overflowing septic tanks and others.
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And thats after wed given them notice by certified mail to comply with it, inspections and all of that. We did all the requirements. Had one down in a bad area and called the deputy sheriff out there, and said, I want you to issue a citation, public health citation, against this grocery store owner for having rats. And he said, Go over that again, Mr. Ragan.
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And I said, Well, for having rats. He said, Well, I have to see them. And I said, Well, come on in. He said, What? So we went in the backroom and they were running all over the rafters and the ceiling back there. And oh my god, he jumped and went back out; he wrote him up.
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CP: (laughs)
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JR: And we had another one where they cut off the water, the city did, and the man that was there, he was from somewhere in Europe, and he had shot the water meter. He had a body guard there, so with no water you couldnt operate. So I went in and told him, Well, no, you got to close down.
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CP: This was a restaurant?
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JR: This was a grocery store, deli meat market. And I said, Youre going to have to close up because you havent paid your bill, and you dont have any water. You cant operate; its not sanitary. And so I called for a deputy and four came. You know, it was a bad area, and we had him stand away from the counter because he had guns back there, and he had a bodyguard.
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And he closed down, but sometimes its, you know, a little bit hazardous. They say its not hazardous work, but I guess, in certain areas, its hazardous. But that was very effective and very rewarding to get things done.
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CP: Oh, yes.
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JR: So the word got around pretty quick that when they asked you to do something, if you didnt do it, there were consequences. Beforehand, Id always tell the people working under me, dont ever so-call threaten anybody, but dont tell people that youre able to do something if you cant do it because then youve lost all control. But a lot of times an individual would sayId say, Now, if its not taken care of, then well be back, and well have to do something about it.
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And the individual would say, Well, what do you mean? And I said, Well, Ill bring a deputy sheriff out here, and if you dont correct it, if its not corrected, then hell issue you a citation. Youll have to go to court. And, Dont threaten me. I said, Youre the one that asked me what was going to happen. Im not threatening you, Im just telling you whats going to happen.
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But no matter what you do sometimes, it was wrong. Another case, we had an overflowing septic tank in a restaurant, and the jeweler behind it was always complaining about it overflowing, and we told him to pump it out more often. And as you know, a grease trap can smell worse than sewage.
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CP: Oh, boy.
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JR: And so Iwe mentioned to him and wrote him letters, and he still had problems. So I called for city police officers in the city then, and I got to know the chief real well. And so he came out and I said, Hes going to issue a citation. He was out front and customers were going in and out, and here is the officer writing him up. And I said, Now, if this thing happens again, this officer is going to come out and issue another citation. And the officer said, No, Im not going to issue him another citation, Mr. Ragan.
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And that kind of took me back. And I said, Why wouldnt you issue him another citation? He said, Because that would be probable cause, Im going to give him one chance. If I have to come back out here again, Im going to arrest him, handcuff him, he told that guy that put you in that car. And youre going down to the county jail, and youre going to have to post bond. Well, to say the least, it never did overflow again. So I think he got his attention in there.
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CP: (laughs) Thats great.
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JR: But I wanted to go over some of the programs that we had in environmental health that we dont have today, as youre well aware of that.
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CP: Give me a time frame in which youre speaking.
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JR: I would say these programs that we had when I went into Sarasota County, and well, I would say all the way, probablyI went there in about 56 to Sarasota County. And I would say we started losing programs after the reorganization with the districts and all, and I think that was after sometime, 76 right around there.
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CP: Yeah, the major reorg.
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JR: Reorganization.
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CP: Thats when you got districts, 76.
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JR: I would say, possibly, probably within the past 10 or 15 years weve lost maybe six or eight major programs to other state agencies for incorporation, consolidation, or whatever you want to call it; the most serious one, as you know, being food, went to the Hotel and Restaurant Commission. We didnt do grocery stores and nursing homes and some of the others. But then they were located in Fort Myers from Sarasota.
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So if you had a complaint, you had to wait over the weekend, whereas if you had a complaint in Sarasota, all you had to do was call the sheriffs office or the police department, and they immediately call me, and we were down there inspecting it even over a weekend or if somebody got sick. We had an excellent food handlers training program in our permit system, which if it didnt comply we could rebuild the permit, and that was real unconstitutional.
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When our invalid, when Hotel and Restaurant Commission took over, and then the Department of Agriculture took over the grocery stores and food outlets and kind of completely caused that program to be at a standstill, which I dont agree with it. But then, I dont make those kinds of decisions, and they dont ask you for your opinion on them anyway.
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CP: So often. Well, yeah, catalog for us those things. I think thatd be very useful for the record.
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JR: Okay. In public water supplies, as you know, that related to when we worked with the state board of health; they would issue permits on public supplies to private supplies. We later passed a local ordinance in Sarasota County to have better quality water and to try to keep us off water intrusion from those areas on the islands.
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And the state would assess this and that, and theyd issue the permits, and we would check them out. And we also inspected the public water plants to make sure and take water samples; and they had to take water samples themselves, although we would collect them. And those, as you know, was taken over some time after that, to the Department of Environmental Regulations. And that also related to sewage treatment plants.
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We did sewage treatment plants, the public ones where they have their own units housing at, be it the city or municipalities or what have you, but individuals who had their own systemsthere were a lot of them that we had to regulate to make sure that they were properly treating the effluent.
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There were different methods, different treatments, and plans had to be approved, and that went over to the Department of Environmental Regulations. At that time, we had our own water laboratories, Millipore filter system, and I thought it was kind of ironic that here they took over the program, the Department of Environmental Regulations, and then they transferred the water program back over to us to do on a contract basis. But
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CP: What was the dividend, Jeff? There was none, was there?
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JR: Well, I guess control. I guess they wanted the control to go back to the Department of Environmental Regulations. But sometimes I wonder the wisdom in it, but then again, we just rolled with the punches and did the best we could and provided the best service we could to the community.
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And unfortunately, when youre dealing, a lot of times, with state agencies, you dont get the instant service that youre used to. And I think, today, theres no such a thing as instant service. We used tosomebody would go out and talk to them that same day, but then the old added proverb, you know, Its a good thing that you dont get all that you paid for, because you probably couldnt stand it.
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CP: Yes.
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JR: And swimming pools, as you know, iswe still have that program. But then, if youre over so many units you dont really come under the program, and that was an important program. We passed a swimming pool ordinance in Sarasota County we had drafted, and it didnt pass the first time or two, so I was determined to get it pass through.
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And Iwe finally got it through; we wanted one that county commissioners knew about swimming pool programs and all. And we were charging so much money for them to pick up the water samples and bring them in, which I never cared too much for that because you didnt know where they got samples from. They could have gotten them out of the city tap.
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CP: Thats so true.
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JR: So we said, If you will go along with the permit system with the fee, we will pick up the water samples whenever we inspect your pool; you dont have to bring them in anymore. So that sold the program, and it did pass through the Board of County Commissioners.
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And besides the public sewage system, we also had problems with, you know, with lift stations overflowing. It was a problem that we finally got worked out over the city of Sarasota because, in a lot of cases and others, the pumps in the lift stations, some of them had dual liftsdual pumps, some didnt.
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But when one went down, they didnt have the same type of pump, so they needed to regulate all of the pumps and upgrade them, so that when they needed one, they could put that pump in, and they didnt have to order it. And, as you know, the effluent would run out and bypass into some kind of canal or stream or river until it was fixed. Now, they have lights on them and all this.
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The individual sewage disposal system, which is the septic tanks in drain fields, we still inspect those with the chemical collates on sight. And they dont have sand filters now, although they did have sand filters. Those did the job its supposed to do, unless you put a post hole digger through it, and then it didnt get treatment. And that was sometimes a problem with it. So there was always somebody trying to out-figure the system.
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I know in some of them we inspected, they had drain fields; they run them way, all the way out. They put a bell footer on it with a flat valve. When it rained, it just run up there and discharge, and then the flat valve would go down, and you wouldnt be able to see it unless you checked it.
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I remember you talking about septic tanks and the sewage that had this Mennonite out in the Pine Craft, which were very good people, very honest people; I really enjoyed working with them. He had a small trailer park because we tried to get all of them approved before the zoning went in. And I think it was three or more constituted, or five or more [trailers] constituted, a trailer park.
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So he had a beautiful garden back there, green. I had never seen one that good before, and I saidyou know, I was just trying to be nice, I said, Well, how does this stay so green and lush and big? Ive never seen a garden like that before. He said, Well, my drain field runs down at the end there.
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And I have a pitcher pump it in the line, and when the tank fills up, I just pump out enough effluent there, where the tank wont overflow, and that really takes care of the vegetables. (CP laughs) I said, Well no, you cant do that. Theres no way you can do that. And so he thought he was doing a good job. Another case, I always try to work with themthe lots out there were 40 by 40, 40 by 40.
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CP: Oh, really?
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JR: And at that time, way back, they didnt have a building department. They didnt put in no plumbing, electric billing, and some of the lots were like 40 by 80.
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CP: My gracious.
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JR: Or 80 by 40. And when theyd havethe water was contaminated, maybe itd be within ten feet of the drain field. And the code then said that it had to be 50 feet. But I couldnt see how we could meet it, so they would say, Well, now, how are we going to get around this, Jeff? And Id say, Well, its not a matter of getting around it, it was an improvement.
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So when the water was contaminated, it was 10 feet, and we could get it 40 feet away, and I said, Well, drill it 40 feet. And he said, Well, it doesnt meet the code. I said, Well, put down there. All we can get is 40 feet because the lots 40 by 40 or whatever it is, and this is an improvement from 20 feet to 40 feet.
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And we issued them that way, right or wrong. We made a decision for an improvement. No sense in continuing drinking the water, and this way, the well was caged, and the other well was just a driven well in the ground. So I thought that that was an improvement.
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CP: Yeah, thats shocking that you were expected to put down a well and a septic tank on a 40 by 40 lot.
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JR: Well, as I said, at that particular time there was no building department and people just
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CP: That blows my mind. Yeah, it blows my mind. Go ahead, Im sorry.
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JR: And in another trailer park, they had a laboratory that ran out on the ground. And I said, Well no, youve got to put a septic tank in there. You couldnt put a distribution box or somethingalthough, I dont see why you couldnt, but thats what the code called for.
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So trying to help the gentlemen and the Mennonite there in Pine Craft, I said, Dig around here, and look around, and see if you see an old barrel, or you see a tank or a distribution box or something where this ran into. If you can find it, and its there, you can use that; you dont have to put in a septic tank.
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So I was kind of leading him. And so I came back Monday morning, and they had dug up that whole yard. He said, Mr. Ragan, Ive dug up that whole yard, and I cant find a tank out there. I said, Well, I guess you going to have to put in a septic tank then. But I thought he would get the message because I couldnt see putting in a septic tank for a
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CP: (laughs) He was being so wise.
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JR: Yeah, thats how honesty works. And we used to get into public building inspections when they had complaints for restrooms, especially service stations. In the summer time, I had our staff go out and inspect all of the service stations where the tourists were coming in, and we found some interesting things. But I dont think most people; most county health units did that. But I always noticed the restrooms when I go on a trip, and most of them werent that clean.
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CP: So do I. Theyre characteristically not.
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JR: And how we got the thing done if they didnt comply, wed just send a letter up to the home office where they had their franchise, and this always took care of it. On child daycare centers and foster homes, we passed a county ordinance on that, regulating them, licensing them. As you know, most of the counties, or many of the counties, did not, when the state wanted to take over, did not want to do this.
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We continued to want to do this because it was our program, and we had started it and had an excellent working relationship with the school out there, where you could get the training, that they had vo-tech. And so we maintained ours, where a lot of counties didnt.
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And therefore, when they didnt, and the state districts took over, and then some of them that couldnt do them, then said that the counties would have to do them under their supervision, whereas we still maintained a program, and it would come over in monitoring. And this was a program that grew and grew and grew, as you know.
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CP: It surely did.
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JR: There was a lot of places. And then the subdivision platting, which is kind of rare now. I mean, with our participation in most all the subdivisions there, most of them didnt have central water and central sewers because they wasnt that progressive then. So we would go out and dig test holes and look at soil content, do percolation tests to see how much of the soil or water would absorb and determine whether or not we felt the septic tank would work.
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And then we worked with the city engineer and the county engineer for when they put them in, that we would prefer to have a ditch in the front drainage of 21 inches, and then that lot grade, finish grade, would have to be 39 inches, so wed get a 39-inch water table. And that worked out real good when the soil was good.
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And if it had a hardpan or anything, that had to be removed and replaced. But then, over the years, it didnt work out in some areas because the people, evidently, got a little bit more money. They went out, and put in culverts out in the front of the yard, and covered those up.
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CP: Uh oh.
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JR: And that just raised the water table up 21 inches.
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CP: Yes, it did.
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JR: So then we had to get the engineer to get them to poke holes in them and to put rock in them, so that they would have some type of drainage, and then some of them had to curb in gutters. Since water and central sewer was late coming, Manatee County put theirs in early. It was always, as you know, a political decision with the Board of County Commissioners because they didnt work.
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But at one point, they could have put it in because the federal government was matching almost dollar for dollar and through the county commissioners it was going out, but I guess they didnt want to make the decision that they made a mistake, which I thought was a mistake in not making. And the new ones coming in, actually, didnt want to make that decision because they wanted to be reelected, so time just marched on, and that created problems.
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But that was a big program, and you know, some of them down in Venice would have had big developments in there. General development had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of acres down there, where they put in the streets and the sidewalk. But there werent septic tanks, and the drainage was something else.
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And some of them had the landfills back in there, and that was a problem. And the landfills down under the Department of Environmental Regulation, theyre not under the health department; we used to inspect all those and check them and see what they were doing. And they got more engineers, more, I guess, qualified individuals, more studies and tests and all this, so we lost the landfills, as well, that we did.
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And the milkmilk products, ice cream, and frozen dessert, we inspected all of those; we took samples; we sent them up to the state lab in Tampa. And that was a big program with the dairies, where we had to go out early in the morning and pick up samples from their holding tankswhat was being agitatedand take samples in there to see what the butter fat content was, the bacteria and this type of thing; see if they were cleaning their equipment properly, their milking equipment.
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CP: Did you do the heavy on that?
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JR: No, that also had to go to Tampa.
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CP: Okay.
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JR: They did that up there. And it wasnt that good in the early days because they would put the milk in these old five-gallon cans and set them by the road, and come back to pick them up from the truck. And the biggest innovation they had was the electrical milking devices and stainless steel truck that they could pump it out of the tank into the truck, and the pasteurization plant where they could sterilize them because the time then, way back, you could have raw milk.
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Our people could drink raw milk, but it wasnt ideal. So that was a big improvement that we had, but then, as you know, the Department of Agriculture took over the dairy plants, inspection farms, and all the pasteurization plants, and the ice cream plants; they got into taking the samples from that and all, and so we lost that major program that we innovated.
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I think Sam Noll was a consultant, a milk consultant, that he went all over the state and came down for uniformity, which that worked out real nice from the district office, the state office, rather than in the district office. And nursing homes, we used to do about 95 percent of the nursing home inspections in Sarasota County, and the state would only do about 5 percent.
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Theyd approve the plans, and wed do all the inspections with the nursing and get into that. And as it projected around, and the state got engineers, and they got specialists, and they got consultants, and they got into Medicare, and they got into this, and so it turned around to where they were doing like 98 percent control, and we only was looking at a few complaints that they would give us and do the food work.
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And so the state Health Department, they changed that name tootheyre in another agency in healthcare thats looking at nursing homes, adult congregate living facilities, and those have really sprung up. But in the nursing home program that we worked very closely with, the state had an excellent program.
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Every now and then, always, theres something innovative out there like, you know, you should do something maybe different even if it was wrong, and I believed in doing that. And so about maybe every six months, Id get the director of nurses and she and IId pick her up about one oclock in the morning, and wed go out and inspect all the nursing homes.
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Just a spot visit, to see if the help was awake, if the narcotics was locked up, if the doors was locked or what have you. And wed go in and look at those, and wed get through about four oclock in the morning. And then Id go home, and then I would go back to work at eight oclock, and theyd say, Well, why did you come in at eight oclock?
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And I said, Well, because every one of the administrators is going to be calling, wanting to know what in the worlds going on. Because, you know, we never got to see that shift from eleven to seven. And that was interesting
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CP: Ill bet you it was.
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JR: we got to walking around, and people werent there, and some of the exit doors was locked, and you couldnt get in. And one time we went into one of them, and I didnt have a problem with it, you know, at two oclock in the morning, ringing the door bell, and theyd come  there and look out the peep hole, and say, What do you want?
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And I said, Im with the state and county health department, and were here to make an inspection. I told her who I was, and who the director of nurses was, and she said, Youve got to be kidding. Im calling the police. I said, Lady, thats the thing to do. Ill wait right here, and you call the police.
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So she called the police, and he come riding up, it was a sergeant, and he said, Jeff, what are you doing out this time of night? And I said, Well, they wont let me in. I want to look at theI want to inspect the nursing home. He said, Open the door. So I thought, you know, you get into funny things that way, but thats the only way you could find out sometimes, and that made a good relationship.
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And then when the state started coming in, I tried tothey would let us know when they were coming in on the day they were coming because they said they would let me know ahead of time. I said, No, I dont want to know ahead of time, I dont want anybody to know ahead of time.
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CP: Yes, yes, yes.
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JR: Because they felt better; otherwise, they got nervous. And then, nowin the beginning, I always thought it was strange, and maybe you probably knew this too, was that they would look more at the facility compliance and not the patient. And, as you know, employees at the state, our local health department, cannot touch a patient; they have to get the nurse or somebody to turn them over to see if theyve got any sores or anything of that nature.
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And I can appreciate that. And we got into labor camps and campsites, recreational and state parks, which we had a lot of; not a lot, but we had three or four labor camps there, and you know how those are always a problem. Its just something on which you almost have to inspect off of every week to get something done because, with all the laws and all, there was very little that you could regulate with individuals.
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But you can only hold the individual responsible there. And I had a problem with one of them, and I had to take the individual to court; couldnt find another way. They wanted to know, would I drop the case? And I told them no. And they said, Well, the mans sick. And I said, Well, Im sorry to hear about that.
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00:54:26.5
And they said, Well, could we change the charge to the company, rather than the individual? And I said, I dont have any, any objection to that. So then we went on through, and it was fine and all. But I always tried toId call Tallahassee, and I would find out who was the registered agent of any facility, and that was usually an attorney if it wasnt the owner, in some of these restaurants and all.
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00:54:54.5
And that way you could write to that individual, and youd know who they were, which would work out, but a lot of people didnt do that. Fumigation notices, as you know, we had pretty good control of that with the licensing from the state board of health. And at one time, as you know, they required a guard to be posted on the fumigation notices on the tents, and we would check them to see if any tears or what have you.
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And then they did away with the guards saying, you know, they didnt think it was that necessary. And then we would get so many of them, we would check about, maybe, 10 or 15 percent of the ones coming in. And now I think that is under the Department of Agriculture, that they regulate those. And I noticed that, as you know, that a lot of people will try to get gas masks and go in these homes when they tent them, and they die because they want to rip them off or rob them, and thats unfortunate.
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CP: It surely is. But it happens, you know.
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JR: Yeah, I dont know, but it isnt ideal. We also got into the laundry plantsindividuals where you did your laundry, commercial, and incinerators. And, you know, incinerators now, I guess, is under the Department of Environmental Regulations. Im not sure which one has that now, but I assume they would.
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00:56:18.0
But we had that problem to get into, when we had our own air pollution control section within the county, not with the health department, but the county had that and regulated that. And we got in that and worked with them in the laundry plants; we would check those and check their plants, if they had their own laundry plant for treatment waste and check the general sanitation part in there. That was interesting, but we didnt get into that that much because there wasnt that much to do with them.
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CP: Yes, yes.
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JR: But we no longer have that. As I said, we had 20I mean, 35, 38 programs, and now they dont hardly have, probably, less than 20 programs. And some of the programs, you know, they did away with; they did away with rabies program; the complaint program, they didnt do awaywell, they did away with them in the fact that they didnt fund them.
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CP: Didnt fund them.
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JR: And then the local county health units picked that up because we felt that was a service
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CP: An old desirable to be done.
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JR: And the county commissioners felt that way too, so we continued to do it. But coding-wise, I guess we didnt get credit for it because the state didntthey werent coding; it didnt exist, even though you were doing it. And I mentioned about the sanitary landfills, we lost those.
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We worked closely with the mosquito control director called Ulysses Mosten, the mosquito control director over the landfills for the Board of the County Commissioners. And abattoirs, we had one abattoir slaughtering house there in the county that we worked with the state inspector on that, and they got into, then, state inspections for the meats and all.
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And we had an ordinance passed that they had to haveall the state meat had to be state inspected in the county. And Im going way back with the ordinances, and Ill try to get into some of the ordinances; I didnt cover all of them that we had, that we had passed by the Board of County Commissioners that they had. I thinkI thought I had another page here, but I guess I didnt copy page four. I think we had about 34-36 different programs that we had.
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CP: Thats a nice inventory though, Jeff.
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JR: Well, this goes backthis was typed up on the job description on one of my job descriptions as environmental health director in 65.
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CP: Really?
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JR: And I was an environmental health director there for about 25 years. Its ironic, as you said, with the experience and all, I kept applying every year; every year I would send in my application for environmental health director status forto be eligible, in case it came up, and you had to do that every year.
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And they kept, you know, adding points for your experience and all. And so when I got to the top of it there, that didnt mean that you would be one, it just only meant you were qualified. My grade in there was 105.25 with a disabled veterans preference, so every year it grew. So eventually, I made it, though. Im trying to see some of the other
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CP: That is 105 out of a possible 100?
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JR: Yeah, I dont know howI guess I got 105, maybe, because of the disabled veteran [preference], I guess. I was looking at some of the other programs that we might have had in there that I didnt see. Oh, public schools, we got into public schools, and, as you know, we inspect those once a year.
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We worked very closely with the superintendent of the schools. And when wed make all of our inspections, both there and on the food cafeterias, we would get together with the superintendent of schools and the manager of all of the cafeterias, or the one in charge of them. And wed go over the report, and discuss them, and see what we were going to do, what the problem was, what they could get on.
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And then based on that, we would write the report and send it to them, and then they had all summer to take care of them. And we always had an excellent working relationship, although legally, Im not quite sure the status of our enforcement on that, but I didnt have a problem.
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CP: Well, you use whats right and reasonable, and prudent people understand that.
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JR: And the superintendent of the schools was very supportive and said, I dont care whether its a regulation or a law. The health department says that you will do it; they recommend it; youre going to do it. You put it in your budget.
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CP: I like that.
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JR: And we never had any problems because we worked with them very, very closely. And the school was a big program; it took a lot of time to go through all the schools and check every room and every deficiency, which a lot of them, actually, were minor, maybe painting or this type of thing. And it helped them with their budget.
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CP: Yes, say something about rabies. Did you all get involved with rabies?
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JR: We had a big program there on rabies we got into, we had to get into, and we worked closely with animal control. And then, thatwe started putting on the county map different places where rabies was coming from, and at that particular time, most of our cases of rabies were from foxes and bats.
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CP: Really?
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JR: And then, I guess, later on, a lot of the rabies was coming from cats since they wander off so much. But we had an epidemic down there in the 60s on Longboat Key in which they had, I imagine, 60 or 70 cases of rabies, probably more than that, where I think it eliminated most of the raccoons on Longboat Key because they all got rabies and died.
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CP: Oh, the 70 cases you speak to is in raccoons, not in humans?
244
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JR: Yes, and animals. Im sorry.
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CP: Okay, okay.
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JR: Related to animals themselves. And so we had to get quarantine measures on the individuals, which was already on the books of quarantining them for ten days. And then at the end of the ten days, if they didnt die of rabies at that time, they didnt have rabies at the time because normally they would die within the ten-day period, if they were rabid. And those that were bitten, that werent immunized, they had to quarantine those for several months or have them destroyed.
247
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And the biggest problem we had was people that would adopt or pick up baby raccoons and keep them. And the only way that you could tell if it bit somebody, if it had rabies, is have it sacrificed and send the specimen to the Tampa lab to see if it had rabies, and that created a lot of problems. And as you know, in raccoons, they can live up to two years with the virus and not die from it or show any ill signs of any ill effect from it.
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CP: Real public health problem.
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JR: So one woman had a raccoon almost two years, and it bit her. And we said wed have to have it sacrificed. And she said, no. She wasnt going to do that. And I said wed get a court order, which I didnt know if we could a court order or not, but I said, Well get a court order. And she finally agreed, and so she sacrificed and sent it off, and it did come back positive, and she had to take treatment.
250
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CP: Oh, it did.
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JR: And a lot of times, you get them when they pick them up sometimes for, you know, pets for this or that, and all of these people handle them, and then all of them have to take the treatment. And as you know, way back, they used serum from horses, and they give a shot, 21 shots right across the abdomen, and after about the eighth or ninth one they start lightening up, understand; you could see where it would, and if you were allergic to that particular serum, it wasnt good. And then they got into the live kill virus from the duck embryo.
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CP: Yes.
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JR: And if thatyou were allergic to that type, that would make a difference, and now, I think, that they have the human
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CP: Human origin.
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JR: that they can have, and they give shots now in the arm, like they would any other shot. If the bite is real serious or deep, they would give you a shot then. And then itd consist of (inaudible) five shots and over a period of time.
256
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And now I think the charge for the rabies treatment is 600, 700 dollars, if you have insurance, it would pay for it, but I dont know of anybody in the health department that would deny the treatment of it, whether they could pay for it or not.
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CP: Yeah, I would hope not.
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JR: And some people didnt believe it or didnt want to take the treatment and all this and that, and some of them refused to take the treatment. And I would go back to the office and type up some official thing, indicating this relieves the health department of any responsibilities, should you should die, and would you sign this.
259
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Well, they came and got treatment, (CP laughs) but sometimes you had to use innovative means to get people who just didnt take things that seriously. I dont think I was ever bitten on the job, although I was bitten many times when I had a paper route. But that, yeah, that was a long time ago. But rabies was a big program.
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And we put ads in the paper, and sometimes we would have to quarantine an area in the county in which the owners couldnt let their pets out, and if they did, they were picked up, then they couldnt get them back until they got them inoculated. And this was a good program, and maybe some of it, to a certain extent, is scare tactics but maybe it takes that for people to immunize animals.
261
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And we had a policy that if your animal was immunized, and it bit somebody, you could keep it home. If your animal wasnt immunized against rabies, and it bit somebody, you had to put it down in a private veterinary hospital for ten days and pay the bill, and they couldnt release it until they inoculated it.
262
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So that was very effective. But a lot of it, as you know, Dr. Prather, is strictly education with people and trying to let them know what is the seriousness of it, and most of the time they will respond. And as I said
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CP: Yes, and thats true in all of your environmental health, I think.
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JR: You get more, I guess, cooperation from people by asking for their cooperation, rather than nobody that doesnt like to be told what to do, and I can understand that, thats human nature. Ive always prided myself on salesmanship; to try to sell yourself in trying to get something done is the same way as inspecting on the complaint on property, when the individual says, No, youre not going to get on my property.
265
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You can get out there on the road, and dont you come back. And I said, Well, maam, you know, if you dont have anything to hide, why is it you wont let me on your property? I just want to see if theres a complaint. If youve got a problem with your neighbor, thats fine; if theres nothing there, well say theres nothing there.  But you know, I would hate to go through all the trouble to go to the states attorneys office, get our attorney, get a search warrant, and all this stuff, probable cause, and all this.
266
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And I said, You know, that isnt necessary. In most cases, probably, we couldnt get one because there wasnt a real need to get a search warrant to go on somebodys property because what they might be having, either an animal, chickens, hogs, or garbage or overflowing septic tanks or something you couldnt see from the front, that youd have a problem.
267
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Or maybe they were operating, or alleged to be operating a child daycare center and this type of thing, and they just didnt want you on their property. But normally, you can always, usually, if you go about it right, explain to them, you know, if you have nothing to hide, then, you know, were just here to find out, and if theres nothing there, then well apologize for bothering you. And then usually it works, but not everybody felt that way.
268
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Some people, as they say, you give them a little bit of authority or a little bit of knowledge, and sometimes it is dangerous, and thats true in any type of work. But I always tried to provide a service and took pride in what I did. And some people would come into the office complaining and thenI cant get this, and I cant get that, and nobody will come out and look at this and look at that.
269
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And so Id go out, and Id say, What seems to be the trouble? And he said, Well, I need somebody to come out here and look at something out here or look at the neighbors property and all, and I called down here. And I say, Well, maybe they might have been busy, but And he said, Nobody will do anything. And I said, Well, what are you doing right now? And the man said, Well, what do you mean?
270
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And I said, Well, Ill meet you out there in ten minutes. And he kind of looked at like, you know, he doesnt believe that. And I said, Well, you go on out there. Now, dont you bother with me when I go out there because Im not going to come over here because I dont tell people where complaints come from, and I dont want to get in the middle of a neighborhood argument or anything of that nature. Ill go out there, and if theres a problem, well take care of it.
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And Ill do it. And Ill do it on weekends. Ive had veterinarians call me and say, Theres a dead dog out here at the house, and they wont bury it. And I go out there and tell the woman, Youre going to have to bury the animal or have it picked up. And since its the weekend, if you want to bury it, dig it down and put at least two feet of dirt over it so animals and whatever wont dig it up. And they said, Well, I dont have time.
272
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And I said, Well, if you dont have time, I guess Ill just have to call somebody from the sheriffs office. And usually, they would go ahead and bury the animal. But you get people who are unreasonable, and to me thats the challenge to workload. It doesnt take any effort to work with people that are nice, but when people are difficult then you have to try to handle them in a special way.
273
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And there are some people I have hung up on because of cussing and raising cane, I said, Now, you know, Ill treat you like a gentlemen, I expect to be treated like one. But now, I dont have to listen to all of this. Well, I pay your salary. And I said, Yes sir, and I appreciate it too. You know, and Ill smile or something, and that really shakes them up, you know, to be nice to them.
274
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But then I have hung up a couple of times, and I have had them file complaints, but you know, that goes with the territory. But in working in public health, I was also interested in serving on some of the state boards, as youre well aware. And the Barber Board had got into some problems and indictments, I think, on individuals.
275
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They only had three members, and I guess that was part of the reason, and Senator Ed Christ from Bradenton, there, changed the law from three members to seven, with one of them, that I knew him, had to be a registered sanitarian to serve on the board at large.  So he appointed me to that board, and, uh, that was called the Florida Sanitary Commission, so I was a commissioner.
276
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There were seven of us, and we met in Tallahassee once a month. I would drive all the way up, early Monday morning, all the way up to Tallahassee, stay all day and drive all the way back and go to work the next day.
277
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CP: You didnt have [Interstate] 75 then either, did you?
278
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JR: No, Im afraid not. I had the old 41, didnt have that much. And after awhile, that got real bad, and I just said to Senator Christ, I think Im going to resign. I only got a one-year appointment. It was one, two, three, and four because they reorganized it, years.
279
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And he said, No, I dont want you to resign. And I said, Well, I think Im going to. And he said, Just think, if you werent there, how much worse it would be. I said, Okay. So I stayed that year, and then I got another four-year appointment.
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CP: These are gubernatorial appointments?
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JR: Theyre appointed by the governor.
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CP: Yes, okay.
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JR: And later they had to be confirmed by the Senate. And I was secretary to the board, and then I served another four years. I served nine years as a Barber Sanitary Commission, state at large; I was the first and only registered sanitarian to serve. And all of them were barbers except myself, and I thought sometimes I was the outsider, but that was all right and
284
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CP: But you were the outsider.
285
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JR: It was interesting sometimes, and I got a lot of information from Dr. Sowder about demi-sterilization methods and all this. And I had tried to train some of the inspectors and all on different stuff. But it was interesting sometimes because not all the members did their homework, and I always did mine and made notes.
286
01:13:7.6
And a couple of times theyd say, Well, you know, I move that we take this mans license. And Id say, No, you cant do that. Hed say, What do you mean, you cant do that? On every board I got on, I got in with the attorney, so I had my facts right
287
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CP: You read the law, I hope.
288
01:13:25.3
JR: ahead of time. And I said, Well, you cant do that. Well, we can do whatever we want to do. I said, No, you cant revoke the mans license. Well, just tell me why not? I said, Because his license has expired, and you cant revoke an expired license. Now, you can ask him to come back before the board before you renew it, but you cant revoke something he doesnt have. And all of them were red-faced because they didnt study what was in their packets.
289
01:13:49.1
CP: They didnt read what was sent them.
290
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JR: And then after that, you cant serve more than two consecutive times on the board without a lapse of four years gone by, so then I got on theI was appointed to the Sanitarian Registration Board. And as you know, every, I think, five years they sunset all the boards, and then they react them. If they want them back on, and then they pass the law back and revise them and what have you.
291
01:14:19.4
I had one sunset, and I guess one sunrise. And so, they did sunset the Sanitarian Registration Board. They didnt see that it was doing that much good, so it more or less died by the wayside from the state. Although, all the local associations still maintained a registration status, if you wanted to voluntarily, and that wasnt mandatory. Now, I think that was part of the reason why they didnt keep it as, it wasnt mandatory, that you had to be.
292
01:14:48.2
And then after that I got appointed to the state Board of Nursing as a consumer member. I found that very, very enlightening. And all the cases, sometimes we would have a lot of books to study with a lot of cases on administrative hearings. And I had a four year appointment on that, but then the board came up for sunset after a year, and after they sunset it and put it back in, then they could make all the appointments over again because the board didnt exist.
293
01:15:19.4
And now it was a new board, and I didnt get appointed; I didnt get my paper, and I didnt get a part. I called up there to one of his aids that I know and say, Well, you know, I dont understand why I didnt get reappointed from a different governor. And she said, Well, Ill look into it, and Ill call you back, Jeff.
294
01:15:34.8
I said, All right. So she said, Well, the governor felt that because your wife was a nurse that he didnt think you should serve on the board. And I said, Well, all of the nurses that are appointed are nurses. And Im not a nurse. I didnt go to nursing school, and I dont see how that had anything to do with it. But I said, Thats the governors prerogative.
295
01:16:1.2
CP: Bad excuse. He just wanted somebody else.
296
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JR: So then I got on the cosmetology board. I got appointed to that for four years, and then I got reappointed. And then the last three years, I waswell, the sixth and seventh year, I was chairman of the board, and the reason for thatthe chairman, who was very knowledgeable, had a doctorate degree and had two schools, was murdered over there in his shop, and I was the vice chairman, and all the rest of them were women. And so, they wanted me to be chairman.
297
01:16:36.5
So I was chairman for two years, and they were going to put me as chairman in that last year. And I said, No, the vice chairman should be chairman, because she had been there for four years, and it was more or less an honor for some of them to be there. So I said, I dont think that I should do that. But that was interesting. We had books to study on administrative hearings; maybe they would be over 12, 15 inches high. Sometimes wed have as many as
298
01:17:0.4
CP: Oh, my. Thats a lot of homework.
299
01:17:1.4
JR: 300 administrative cases, and sometimes they would go from morning to midnight and then the next day on the hearings. And after, about 25 years, I grew a little bored, I decidedand that was in addition to regular work because I usually did that on one day; I would fly up and fly back, but I tried to do most of those, of the hearings that they had.
300
01:17:23.2
I made a lot of contacts, and I think it was very beneficial to the department and as well as some of the organizations that I belonged to, and the Kiwanis and others, that I paid my own way. Most of the businesses, they paid their own because when they saw me, they saw the health department; they didnt see me as an individual, but a lot of people didnt think that. But I think the community involvement with the citizens, I think, is very excellent.
301
01:17:53.6
CP: Which is so valuable to the public health missions.
302
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JR: Some people dont, I dont think, see it that way, which, I guess, everybody has a right to their opinion, but I think if youre going to do an outstanding job, youve got to know the people and know the people that can be the so-called shakers and movers within the community.
303
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CP: It takes a little more effort on our part.
304
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JR: But it pays off in dividends in the long run.
305
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CP: And it detracts, if you dont.
306
01:18:21.3
JR: Well, thats true.
307
01:18:22.8
CP: Not only does it pay off, if you do, but if you dont, it detracts from the success of your mission. Yes, it does. Thats good.
308
01:18:31.0
JR: It makes a big difference in there. I had some information that I will leave with you, that is on Florida Medical Journal, and some of these in here are from Dr. Sowder. And another one I have in here is from Russell Jackson, and I wont read this article in here because its somewhat in here, this is a military in the Florida, first state health officer, by E. Russell Jackson Jr., who knew my father, who was in the food handlers trading business.
309
01:19:7.1
I happened to see that in a medical journal with my wife worked for Dr. Wensel in Bradenton for 41 years, and two brothers took his practice. And she stayed on about another seven years. So she has about 48 years in nursing, which is more seniority than I have over the Public Health Department.
310
01:19:30.5
But I did want to read some informational background on public health in Florida and give them some kind of information on the development of local health services and health departments, and the relationship between the state and the county, and how some of the laws were enacted and why.
311
01:19:51.7
And basically, we all know that the state board of health was formed in the late 1800s and that was because of an outbreak in epidemic of the yellow fever in Jacksonville, in which they formed it. And they had a very limited budget; I think the budget was probably 40,000 dollars or so when it started there, and that was the only reason it was formed at that particular time.
312
01:20:17.8
So the public health in Florida, [reading] Florida suffered from epidemics and communicable disease similar to those in other parts of the United States and no less severe. Yellow fever was a terrifying and reoccurring plague. Smallpox and cholera was next on the list in the dreaded diseases.
313
01:20:33.1
These were many victims of tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever, and as well as diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, and other diseases. And then the yellow fever was the first feared of all the diseases. And in late 1800s in Jacksonville and the epidemic in 1888, there were approximately 5,000 reported cases with over 400 deaths.
314
01:20:56.0
There would have been more death had there not been the good care provided with the limited resources available, much to the credit, for the care given to the patients must be attributed to the Key West physician, Dr. Joseph H. Porter, who was invited to Jacksonville and assigned the responsibility of coordinating, as part of the government, release service and the medical and nursing care. [end reading]
315
01:21:20.4
And I think Dr. Porter was the first state health officer in the state, at that time that they appointed him. And local health services, [reading] the state constitution adopted in 1885 provided, not only for a state board of health, but also authorized county boards of health. This showed and recognized, even at the time, that local government had a responsibility for this important function.
316
01:21:48.5
However, the initial experience with local public health in Florida was not good. Each county board of health, in its desire to commutative disease, adopted different regulations, including quarantine. This frequently interrupted movement of individuals or merchandise from one county to another and created an intolerable situation, according to Dr. Porter, who recommended the abolishment of county boards of health, and the legislature acted to do this.
317
01:22:19.2
Nevertheless, Dr. Porter saw the need for local public health entities and designated practicing physicians of various counties to serve as county agents. They were chiefly responsible for reporting communicable disease and were required to provide annual reports to the state health officer.  Subsequently, Dr. Porter appointed district health officers to cover areas of the state, providing supervision and services, as required.
318
01:22:44.6
The number reached a maximum of eight. [end reading] And they go on to indicate others that served in that capacity. [reading] In 1921, a bureau of communicable disease and health unit was established. Dr. George Dame, which was well known and well respected, and was in public health for a long time, as well as his son, who had been a district officer for four years, was appointed director after a meeting between, then, the state health officer, Dr. Farrell of the Rockefeller Foundation.
319
01:23:18.0
And it goes into basis of survey; a plan for county health units in Florida was prepared and submitted to the state board of health. The plan included program organization, staffing, financial support. The minimum personnel specified were a full time physician health officer, a nurse, a sanitarian inspector, and an office assistant; that consisted of a minimum of four employees. The basic budget for such a staff was 10,000 dollars.
320
01:23:44.3
At least half the funds would be provided by the county, but the direct authority would be retained by the state health officer. The development of a county health unit efforts to initiate development of county health units in 1921 was stalled by a drastic cut in the funding of the state board of health.
321
01:24:2.2
Plans to establish unit in Palm Beach, Polk Countys had to be shelved for many years. It was not until 1930 that Taylor County, which had already experienced the benefit results of a malaria and hookworm control program, organized the first county health department. Leon County followed in 1931 and then Escambia in 32. [end reading]
322
01:24:25.1
So it goes to show that it started early, but it took awhile to catch on with the finances and funding. And as you said, each county had different regulations, and you needed some central form to have a standard policy, or rule, or regulation was enacted because most of the rules were rules formulated by the state board of health under a law that they had enacted, and that would govern what was going on within the 67 county health departments.
323
01:25:1.8
As they used to say, Well, if youre just a mediocre employee, you can always transfer to another health unit if you didnt work out where you were. And you would cover all of them by the time you were retiredI say that in jest.
324
01:25:16.6
CP: (Laughs) I hope so.
325
01:25:19.1
JR: There were six or seven counties, and at that time, they issued tags by the county, if you were like county, whatever, five, with a designated county. And they had a tag with 68, and 68 didnt denote a county; normally, it was in Tallahassee. So because I worked for the state, I would get a 68 tag, and that way people wondered what county you are from because they didnt denote any county other than the 67.
326
01:25:46.8
But I think that would be interesting, as you couldnt cover all of it. I did work one time in DeSoto County, as they didnt have an environmental health director, and they assigned different health departments over there to work it. Although, I became more serious in providing a service, some of them only sent one person. I would send two or three and go with them and set up radio communications; I got radios into all our cars through Civil Defense.
327
01:26:17.1
And after I got them all working and up, the county administrator took all the radios from us, and we had to find other sources on our own, which we did. And that worked out well in DeSoto County. And we found some irregularities in permitting and not permitting, and this type of thing there because they didnt have the staff. And
328
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CP: Did they have an organized health department?
329
01:26:43.1
JR: They had an organized health department. The health officer didnt stay that long, and I got to know the county administrator and the chairman of the county commissioners. And when he would come down to the health department, hed come down and see me; he wouldnt even talk to the health director.
330
01:27:0.2
CP: They knew you.
331
01:27:1.3
JR: They changed quite a bit, and it was interesting over there. As I said, unless you were born and raised there, you were an outsider. So I knew its a cow country, so I had the sheriff there call or write over to the sheriff there and say that I was going to be in the county working. And then I got a beverage agent to go on in and inspect all the alcoholic beverage places in the county because he carried a gun, and he had the authority with the alcoholic beverage license.
332
01:27:31.3
We found a few cases where they had cigarettes that didnt have the state stamp on them. And one tavern that we couldnt find was on one corner and they moved it down to another cornerwell, we couldnt find it, but they never got any approval or told anybody, they just moved it, but I say, that was quite an experience.
333
01:27:51.1
And Im used to writing letters and sending copies to all the people concerned, and when I started writing letters and sending garbage to the county administrator and different people, he called me in and says, You know, we dont do that here. And I said, Well, Im sorry, but I dont work for you. I work for the health director in Sarasota County, and they have assigned me here.
334
01:28:13.8
And you know, if you have a problem with that, I think you should take it up with him. I understand your position, but, at the same time, I do it so everybody knows what I am doing, and they can be aware of it, rather than not knowing, I think is even worse. So they kind of implied that, I dont know how youre going to get enforcement here.
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01:28:37.2
And I said, Well, Ill get enforcement because Ill file the charges in Sarasota County for DeSoto County. Because the state attorneys office had the three counties, so if I had to file anything, I could file there; I didnt have to go through them. But it was interesting, somewhat frustrating sometimes, but we were there just about everyday with our staff
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01:28:58.9
CP: Oh boy.
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JR: and we accomplished a lot in the three or four months that we were there. I was glad when we no longer had to go over there.
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01:29:8.0
CP: (CP laughs) I am sure of that.
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01:29:8.7
JR: They did get an environmental health director, and I assume they did get a health director there.
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01:29:15.5
CP: For curiosity did you have any track with the hospital? With the mental health hospital there?
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01:29:21.2
JR: No, we checked the food facility there, but we didnt get into that aspect of it because
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01:29:28.4
CP: Just curious.
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01:29:29.3
JR: usually the hospitals consultants that did hospitals went into those. And so, they didnt ask us in. And I thought that maybe we were probably in enough trouble as it is being over there, without stirring
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01:29:45.0
CP: Asking for some more.
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01:29:46.5
JR: stirring something else up there. But it has been rewarding to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Im glad Im retired; I miss the people, but I dont miss the work, with all the new computers, and all the new equipment, and all the state agencies, and the rules and regulations. Theres no such thing as, in my opinion, as instant service.
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01:30:8.6
And I would imagine its somewhat frustrating because even sometimes Ill call the health department in Sarasota and ask for something, and it doesnt get done as fast as what I would like to do it. And I always took a personal interest in doing things, and any complaint that was filed with any law enforcement agency, I would personally handle myself and write a letter to that individual to let them know what wed done and that we did it right away because I thought that was a good working relationship.
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01:30:39.2
CP: That is good PR.
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01:30:40.5
JR: And that any major problem within the city, whether it be an overflowing septic tank, or a grease trap, or something of that nature, I would personally take somebody with me and go out and call the city because I had connections that I could call on and get things done, where other people would get frustrated over even where to start.
349
01:30:59.2
I could get them to pick up stuff that they normally would not pick up because I asked them to. And I would go out and have lunch with the supervisors of the city and the county and different things so that if something unusual came up
350
01:31:11.8
CP: You were in good relationships.
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01:31:13.6
JR: Thats right. And if they needed a favor and wanted us to look into something, we did the same way too. But, a lot of times, theyd cut off the water on Friday and then call us into the city. And I thought, Well, you know, heres an apartment complex, and they cant go down and pay the bill. And I would say, Couldnt you wait until Monday?
352
01:31:34.9
Wait until Monday, and then call them, and then you give them a chance. So I would go out and give them notice that come Monday, Id be back out there, maybe five oclock in the afternoon, and if you didnt have it done then we would have to ask you to discontinue then.
353
01:31:48.9
And most of the time they would go down and pay, but I thought it was ironic that in a lot of cases they would let the individuals on commercial build up a big bill. I didnt understand that, why theyd let them get by so far and then call me, and says, They dont have any water. As if its all my fault.
354
01:32:8.4
(CP laughs) And I had one case, there was no water in the building, and it was hard to catch this man because he came and was gone much of the time, and then the HRS office there, I think I understood, paid his bill. They didnt call me.
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01:32:29.4
CP: What?
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01:32:29.8
JR: And then it happened again, and I just said, Its happened again. You didnt pay your bill; they cut off your water. You get it fixed, and you get it paid, or else I am going to bring a deputy sheriff out there. So I took a deputy sheriff out there, and he issued him a citation. And he was very unconcerned; he said he had to go to a ball practice or something, so he issued it to him. And I said, Now, if you dont take care of it, were going to be back.
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01:32:54.2
And then the HRS local district office there in Sarasota was a little unhappy with me because I filed charges against him because they were working with him. But they didnt tell me this, and there was no communications. And I felt like I was doing my job, and I didnt, you knowbut anyway, some of those things happen, and we finally got it worked out. But I always had a good relationship with everybody.
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01:33:19.2
CP: You sure did, Jeff.
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01:33:20.2
JR: Ms. Rye was always an excellent individual who worked herself up the hard way to become a district administrator down there and, you know, she passed away.
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01:33:30.0
CP: No, I didnt know that.
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01:33:30.8
JR: I think she died of a heart attack. She got elected to the city council after she retired.
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01:33:34.8
CP: Yes, I was aware of that, but I didnt know she had died.
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01:33:37.4
JR: Yeah, she was a very involved community worker. I always respected her. And I guess you make enemies no matter what you do right or wrong, you have to do what the right thing is. I think she would have done real well.
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01:33:53.5
CP: Let me ask you, Jeff, you know, of all this very, very exciting history you have had, what was the most satisfying piece of your career?
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01:34:5.8
JR: I think the local ordinances was excellent that we had adopted because either the state could not regulate it state wide and some of the cities didnt want to, so some of it only applied, I guess, in the counties instead of the cities. And we had many, as I indicated to you before, that we had the various ones in county ordinances because there was a lack of it in the regulations.
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01:34:42.1
And as I said, some of those were the swimming pool local ordinances, one was in child day care that we had in there. One of them that we regulated was animals, dogs. The reason for that though, wed have odors, and what is odors? What is harmful or maybe objectionable or obnoxious to one, may not be to another; and how do you define odors; and is it a degree of odors?
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01:35:14.7
So I had a law ordinance passed in the county, whereby if they had excessive animal waste where they kept dogs, and this came up because of hunting dogs, and odors, and they wouldnt keep the pen clean. So they had excessive amounts, so we would go out and tell them that they needed to clean up the pens, and we would be back the next day, and then wed write them a letter and put them on notice.
368
01:35:39.1
And sometimes they wouldnt clean them up, and so when they didnt and as, there again, I would call the deputy; and hed come out, and observe the waste, and he would write them up. And then the guy said, Well, Im not going to sign the citation. And I said, Hey, it makes no difference to me whether you sign it or not.
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01:35:55.9
I said, Either youre going to sign it, or this deputy sheriff here is going to arrest you, handcuff you, put him in the car, take you down to jail, and youre going to have to post bond, and youre going to miss supper. Now, its up to you. Now, do you want to sign it, or do you want to go to jail? Because I dont care, this is a man thats going to tell you whats going to happen. But Im just explaining it to you.
370
01:36:14.1
Well, I never did get any of them that didnt refuse to sign the citation. And normally, they would give them a fine and put them on notice. That was an excellent tool that they had never had before.
371
01:36:27.1
CP: Yeah, you were tough.
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01:36:28.7
JR: Well, I was fair, but whatever I said, I could back up; if I didnt, I wouldnt say it. And we had a good well-drilling program there in Sarasota County, which is still there now, tried to have better quality water and to prevent saltwater intrusion where they had a three-inch well, I mean a four-inch well to a two-inch well and then they grouted that. And that was one of our big programs that we had within the county.
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01:36:53.9
And we had other local ordinances that we passed, food handlers permit ordinance, and others. As I said, we needed stronger ordinances locally, and we were able to get them, and they did a good job. And that was, I think, a big accomplishment. I guess the biggest improvement was, I guess, in refrigeration, especially in cherry plants, and on obtaining central water and central sewer facilities, and doing away with septic tanks, and outlawing privies that they had. That was always a problem in the rural community.
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01:37:29.9
CP: So thats your most satisfying, whats the most disappointing piece of your whole career?
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01:37:36.6
JR: I guess the most disappointing was the state legislature enacting laws, eliminating programs from the health department to, I guess, fragment what we were doing. They wouldnt give us the staff or the money, but they would create new departments and give them all the money that they wanted and all the positions that they wanted.
376
01:38:2.1
And we had a hard time keeping staff because when we would train somebody for two years, we had a lot invested, and they would go to another state agency for maybe 10, 15 percent more money to give them a state car, and that was an enticement for them, so sometimes I thought we were training grounds for other state agencies. And, as you know, in the past, it used to be merit.
377
01:38:24.9
You got raises based on merit that was anywhere from zero to ten percent and that was up to management. And then union came in, and then they changed all of that to where you, basically, all you got was a five percent raise, thats across the board. If you were aI dont care what you didyou did five hundred percent more than this other person, just mediocre and just borderline, they all got five percent. Now, I think they only give about three percent, whatever the state
378
01:38:55.9
CP: Thats still across the board though?
379
01:38:59.0
JR: Thats across the board to everybody, that it is hard to get any different. And its ironic; its my understanding that in a legislature you had to be there ten years to get a retirement, and they changed the law from ten years to eight because they are four year terms. So if you got two terms, you got a retirement just like they said in the dairy farm.
380
01:39:22.0
I dont know what it was, it was just a hypothetical number, they said, Ten cows made a dairy farm. And I was wondering, well, who in the legislature came up with ten cows to make a dairy farm. And I said, Well, I guess its probably because his mother maybe had nine cows so they made it ten. I dont know, thats just an observation; I come up with some crazy ones sometimes.
381
01:39:45.4
But thatsand I think the legislature also put in, they didnt usually get any raises. I think they put in on one bill, its my understanding, I may be wrong, that they put in there that whenever the state employees got a raise, then they would get a raise so itd be automatic.
382
01:40:3.6
CP: Well, this year they got raises when the state employees didnt, though.
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01:40:8.1
JR: Oh, thats right. They got them in advance, but iton retirement system, when I retired, I dont think I got all of the information, you know, that we should get sometimes when you do retire because if you retireyou can retire after 30 years of service regardless of age, or at age 65, and they used to take your best ten years, now they take your best five.
384
01:40:33.8
But if you retire less than 65 and youre married, your insurance will be about 450 dollars a month, and that makes a difference if you want to know upfront what youre going to have in there. But one thing they did do with the union, which I was never in the union because I was exempt from the union, I was management, is that they did give the retirees a three percent raise every July.
385
01:40:58.6
And sometimes the retirees got three percent raise and the legislature didnt fund any for the employees that were working; they didnt get any that year. And sometimes they didnt give any raises, or they gave a five percent raise for two years. And if youre at the top of your bracketI think one time I remember everybody got a raise but myself because I was at the top of my bracket for the range that they had because they had ranges.
386
01:41:24.8
So here I was, in charge of 35 employees, responsible for them, and everybody got a, I think, five percent raise and I didnt get any, but that was the system. It did concern me, but it didnt bother me.
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01:41:40.2
CP: Jeff, let me ask you, 75 years from now, a young person watching this tape, what would you want them to know? A young person interested in public health, what would you have to tell them?
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01:41:54.8
JR: Well, I think in getting in public health is going to be something that you have to be committed to, and when you take on the responsibilities to do the very best you can, be honest, and forthright, and to be courteous to individuals because everybody deserves courtesy. But I think the main thing is that the knowledge that they have, and the computers, and everything they have now is sophisticated, it gets complicated.
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01:42:20.8
And sometimes you deal with things everyday, and everyday you assume the public knows what youre doing or assume they know the regulations. And you should take a little bit of time to be humble and explain it and help them through the system, and I dont think sometimes thats the case. They sometimes handicap the system, rather than to help the system.
390
01:42:42.6
But if you dont like your work then get out, because youre going to make everybody else miserable. I liked my work; it wasnt work. But then towards the end, they got too many complications, and you did the best you could. But I didnt really like it that much, and thats when I retired, when I was 65, because with social security, I was reallyI could make more money retired than I could working.
391
01:43:6.1
But that wasnt the issue, if it was still back the way it was, I think I probably would still be working. I was, I think, what they call, when youre senile, I guess. The good old days, that there were such good old days, they were to me with the state board of health when the people you could call on, and depend on, and get down, and you were communicating, and talking, and you had a dialogue and relationship; and now, its just a lot of confusion and a lot of paperwork.
392
01:43:32.4
So if you want to get into something rewarding, try to find something that has a retirement system, no matter what you do, because youre certainly not going to live on social security. If you think social security is a cure-all in your retirement plan, and its never been that. And people assuming that it is, it isnt going to be that way.
393
01:43:52.7
Also in retirement, if you stop work and you think youre going to work again, you ought to freeze your benefits because I know an individual who didnt freeze his benefits, and then he went back to work two and a half years later, and then he quit, and they only gave him three years of the last five and thats all he got paid on. So he really didnt get what he really paid into.
394
01:44:16.5
And in the beginning, you didnt have to pay social security when I started with the health department in 49, it was optional, and not paying it, we got 2 percent retirement instead of 1.6. And then later, when I got married, I thought I should have it for my wife, so then I took it out and then they later made it mandatory, but there for about eight or nine years, I got 2 percent.
395
01:44:41.4
Law enforcement now gets 3 percent, and we get I think 1.6, but then I certainly think they deserve it. And they only have to put in 25 years and retire, and they have a lot of fringe benefits. But Id definitely get into something that had fringe benefits and look at it that way.
396
01:45:0.5
And thats about 35 percent of your salary, so people want to see whats in their hand when they get paid, but you dont look at that, you look down the road because if I thought working at 175 dollars a month Id have never taken the job, but I knew it would pay off in the long run if you stuck with anything.
397
01:45:16.5
And youre going to have tothats the only job I really ever had. They say now, Oh, most people change jobs seven, eight, nine times in their lifetime. Well, this is the onlyI had part time jobs in school and all, but this is the first real job I had, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But its whatever you put into it. If you dont put anything into it, youre not going to get anything out of it.
398
01:45:36.9
CP: Mr. Jeff Ragan, let us thank you sincerely, and on behalf of the library system of the University of South Florida and the School of Public Health, we thank you greatly for coming by and sharing with us your very long and just beautiful career in public health, and youve put some mile posts. We got to switch, we can do some measuring the future historians are looking at. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. And Jeff, we thank you sincerely.
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01:46:6.5
JR: I appreciate the opportunity to come here, and I appreciate your friendship, and Dr. Sowders, and all the other people that I highly respected and still do.
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01:46:15.1
CP: Youve still got it all.
401
01:46:16.7
JR: Well, I hope so.
402
01:46:18.8
CP: Good, and Im Skeeter Prather.



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