NEW CANAAN — Jen Eielson was set on pursuing a career in public health. That is, until she took an elective on environmental health and her entire plan changed.

“It was toward the end of my bachelor’s degree and it totally made me change directions,” Eielson, a Milford native, said with a smile.

Earlier this month, Eielson became the full time director of environmental health for New Canaan. A whiteboard sign by her office door in Town Hall read “Congratulations” in capital, red letters next to some pictures and drawings.

Eielson explained what environmental health is and what her responsibilities are in New Canaan.

Q: What does the director of environmental health do?

A: We inspect and license all the restaurants in town, salons and beauty shops and all the public pools. We do evaluate complaints too like tenant landlord disputes — those can be interesting.

We also deal with neighbor complaints. We do all the septic inspections, soil testing and sign off on all the building permits. I’ve been doing this for almost 14 years and have worked previously in Ridgefield, Bridgeport and other towns.

Q: What made you interested in working in this field?

A: When I was in undergrad at Southern Connecticut State University, I was getting my public health degree, majoring in health promotion. I interned doing sex education in Bridgeport with at-risk youth for a few years.

I needed an elective and took an environmental health course and I liked it. It was toward the end of my bachelor’s degree and it totally made me change directions completely because it really triggered something. I like doing field work and the whole regulating and learning the law. It’s black and white, there isn’t such gray area as opposed to health promotion. I like to engage and be out in the field.

Q: Where did you start out?

A: I got a job right out of school in Waterbury and that was trial by fire. I was doing housing code and I didn’t realize what it really entailed. My first day on the job, I went out for a no heat complaint and I didnt know you could call for that.

I learned the process by working in the city. I was there for little over a year and then went to Branford because there I had more opportunity to grow, and that’s where I got certified in phase I and phase II septic.

It’s always my goal to keep learning and expanding. The job for Bridgeport came up and I was a registered sanitarian for three years until Ridgefield hired me.

Q: What are some trends you’ve noticed in town?

A: We’re getting a lot of food trucks. They’re not allowed to operate in town and can’t drive through the streets because it’s a hazard. They’re only allowed to go the construction sites.

For the events at Waveny and schools, we’re seeing a lot of food trucks and that’s a trend too. That’s something that we’re going to somewhat address. How much can government really regulate, too?

That’s what make public health exciting. You’re never bored and it’s never one thing you’re doing. I could be doing soil testing in the morning and then a landlord dispute in the afternoon and meeting an engineer after that about a project. It varies greatly on what you do, and with all these things you can't do the same thing again and again.

humberto.juarez@

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