He's making sure of our health

Published 8:31 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2004

By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
It's summer time again and at least one person hopes it will be a better one, as far as mosquitoes go. Last year was a bad one with West Nile and the EEE virus on everyone's mind. There was one West Nile death and two from the EEE virus and Ricky Elliott says that is just too many.
Ricky Elliott is the Public Health Environmentalist for Escambia County, and it is part of his job to keep tabs on what is going on in the county, as it pertains to the health of Escambia's citizens.
He inspects restaurants, day cares that serve food, convenience stores, hotels and motels, jails and prisons to make sure that all rules and regulations will be followed to guarantee the public is protected when they eat away from home.
Elliott says that he does eat out but he always checks the health score of any place where he eats.
His department also checks septic tanks and sewage problems in the county, along with testing birds for West Nile and dogs for rabies.
Elliott grew up in the Bradley community and he still lives there. He graduated from W.S. Neal in 1984 and says that although he did play some baseball, he spent most of his time on his schoolwork and graduated at the top of his class. He always wanted to become a school teacher and after graduating from Neal, he attended Jefferson Davis Junior College for two years until 1986. He then continued his education at the University of South Alabama receiving a degree in education in 1988. He came back to Bradley when he was unable to secure a teaching position that year and spent that time helping out at the family store while his grandfather was very ill. After the death of his grandfather, he was able to get a job teaching at Sparta Academy in Evergreen where he taught for about a year and a half. One of his students' father told him about an available job working in the health department in Brewton. He applied for and got the job and has been there ever since. He began as an inspector for both Conecuh and Escambia Counties. After about two years, his territory became just Escambia County in 1993.
Regulations are set by the State of Alabama and all health inspectors use this to set their goals when they do inspections of food places and hotels and motels. It is in the best interest of the public to have the safest and cleanest places to eat and sleep when not at home.
In a way, Elliott is still a teacher. It is just not in a schoolroom setting these days. He believes that information is the key to having better health and living in a healthier community.
He grew up in the country in the small community of Bradley and it is his decision to bring his own family up in the same area. He was married in 1988 to Tammy Fowler and they have two children, Whitney, who is 12 and Taylor, who is seven. The children attend W.S. Neal and his wife is the custodian for W.S. Neal Elementary School.
He just completed his master's degree in May from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the School of Public Health and continues to search for ways to improve the health of Escambia County.
In the time he has been working for the Department of Public Health, he created the Escambia County Rabies Vaccination Verification Program; served as chairman of Escambia County Animal Control Task Force; authored the Escambia County Resource Directory; is the web master for the Escambia County Health Department web page; is a member of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County; is a member of Escambia County Fetal Infant Mortality Review; was a board member of the East Escambia Red Cross; is a board member of the Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy and was coordinator for the Unlocking Potential in Students Program.
All of this doesn't leave much free time for Elliott. He is a member of Bradley Assembly of God Church where he is a deacon and plays the piano for services. He also plays piano for a family quartet, "The Bradley Quartet." He loves to spend time with his family, and he and his wife collect blue glass ware called "Capri" ware.