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KCHD sanitarian supervisor no stranger to rating systems

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- She may be new to Charleston, but the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's new sanitation supervisor is no stranger to food safety programs and restaurant rating systems.

Nasandra Wright worked for Columbus Public Health in Ohio's capital city as that department rolled out its color-coded restaurant rating system a few years ago.

Wright joined the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department in November. The department will implement its own color-coded rating system countywide beginning Feb. 1.

"It's similar in some aspects," Wright said of Kanawha County's rating system. "The process that Kanawha-Charleston is using tends to be a lot more simplified and I think the public will like that a whole lot better."

Wright favors restaurant rating systems, as well as color-coded systems over letter grades.

"[Ratings] bring about public awareness," Wright said. "That's the purpose that it was intended for and when it's used in that perspective, it's very good."

Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of KCHD, said Wright joined the health department after a national search for Gail Sowards' replacement.

"We're fortunate to have her here," Gupta said. "I'm sure that she brings in vast experience both on the food side and the water and sanitation. She's very knowledgeable and talented in all those areas."

Charleston also was a good fit for Wright because her husband's trucking industry job relocated him here, she said.

A Jamaican native, Wright initially came to the United States to earn her undergraduate degree in chemistry at The Ohio State University.

"Initially I started out in chemistry. I wanted to be a research scientist," Wright said. "Right after college, starting in that field, I realized quickly I'm more of a people person so I wanted to be more in public health."

She earned a master's degree in public health at Florida International University.

She most recently spent five years in Columbus, in which she worked four years for the city and one year for the state of Ohio.

During her time with Columbus Public Health, the department won the 2009 Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for Excellence in Food Protection -- the highest national award for food protection programs.

After working with the city of Columbus for four years as a sanitarian, Wright was a food safety specialist with the state of Ohio.

Food specialists audit food safety programs at local health departments and enforce the FDA food code, she said.

Wright wants to implement some changes at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, but has not said what those changes would be.

"I would like to upgrade the food program," she said, "[and] work closely with the industry and operators to make our program the best program -- a program of excellence."Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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