Perry Piper has spent the past 22 years working in the field of Environmental Health; but it still surprised him to receive the Sanitarian of the Year Award from the Kansas Environmental Health Association (KEHA) this fall.
“I wasn’t expecting it! I’m currently the president of the KEHA board and was standing at the front taking pictures of the ceremony – I had no idea they were going to call my name,” said Piper. “It was a nice surprise.”
Sanitarians investigate environmental health and safety. They are public health specialists who identify risks and enforce regulations. The Sanitarian of the Year is awarded by industry professionals to someone who exhibits excellence in this field.
Perry has been providing excellent service to the public since 2000 through jobs at Shawnee County, the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and now Riley County. He has been with the county for five years and he is the only employee to cover these particular duties, but what are those, exactly?
As the Environmental Health Specialist for Riley County, Perry provides inspections for private well water and sanitary sewer systems to protect the health and safety of people here. This includes site visits, water sampling, soil testing, education, licensing, and recommendations for septic systems and lateral field care. If someone has property not served by public water and sanitary sewer systems, Perry can help. Since his availability is sometimes limited, inspection services are prioritized based on safety risks and the severity of the issue.
“Health and safety regulations are based on problems we’ve solved and lessons we’ve learned over time. We’re not just the government trying to tell you what to do; we’re trying to keep you safe,” said Piper. “My entire job is to protect the health and safety of people.”
Originally from Wamego, Perry attended Kansas State University and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural, Production Management Option. He was fortunate enough to receive multiple job offers right out of college and worked first for Farmland Foods and later at ConAgra Foods in quality assurance and microbiology before starting as a food inspector for Shawnee County. He liked what he did and has become progressively more involved over the years.
“I never thought I would use what I learned in soil science class – but here I am. I think I’ve used everything I studied in college one way or another,” said Piper.
When he’s not at work, Perry enjoys fishing for crappie, hunting, and being outdoors with his family. His three daughters have their own fishing poles and bows, and often join him on his outdoor adventures.
We are fortunate to have Perry at Riley County. He has been a shining example of servant leadership for his entire career. The Sanitarian of the Year Award is just one small bit of evidence to support the care and dedication he has provided to the people in Kansas. Talking with the people he serves, his coworkers, and his friends and family will provide even more proof of his dedication.
We are proud of Perry’s achievements and grateful to work alongside him.