Faces of Food Safety: Meet David Vasquez of the FSIS

Faces of Food Safety: Meet David Vasquez of the FSIS

by Sue Jones
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David Vasquez, supervisory consumer safety inspector (SCSI) at Establishment (Est.) M675 in Hereford, Texas, has been with FSIS for 28 years. He supervises 20 food inspectors (FI), 4 consumer safety inspectors (CSI) and 2 intermittent FIs. He also juggles a variety of tasks.

He supervises 20 food inspectors (FI), 4 consumer safety inspectors (CSI) and 2 intermittent FIs. He also juggles a variety of tasks. In addition to ensuring regulatory compliance, he mentors, manages training and resolves staffing issues, and then there’s administrative items such as time and attendance sheets, workers compensation forms and travel vouchers. He also spends time recruiting new FIs and CSIs. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he attended community and university job fairs to recruit new hires; now, he participates in virtual job fairs.

Vasquez’s supervisor, Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Jonathan Klemme, said, “Mr. Vasquez’s dedication to the mission is evident in his willingness to take on numerous special projects that wouldn’t normally fall under the scope of an SCSI’s duties, including participating in hiring events in the Texas Panhandle, assisting during the Frontline Supervisor’s absence in performing in-plant performance system reviews outside of his duty station and doing walk-throughs of new plants applying for a grant of inspection. Mr. Vasquez has worked closely with the Dallas District Office and Human Resources, coordinating the onboarding of many newly hired inspectors for both his own duty station and other duty stations in the area. Through these special projects, Mr. Vasquez has grown his repertoire of abilities and helped the circuit, district and program area with his efforts.”
Maintaining team morale
Passionate about his work, Vasquez considers it an honor to be a public servant who helps ensure our nation’s food supply is safe. He likes to lead by example and to mentor FIs and CSIs. In the team environment at the plant, he says maintaining morale is important. “I treat people the way I want to be treated. I also like to cook, so sometimes I will I cook ribs or brisket to share with the team. I also cook breakfast every Saturday. Even though they may be working on a Saturday, the inspectors look forward to breakfast — it brightens up their day,” said Vasquez.The recent pandemic has changed the way his team works, but the Saturday breakfasts continue. Said Vasquez, “With COVID-19, our workforce faced distinct challenges, but they worked to ensure the production lines would not stop or slow down. I applaud all dedicated FSIS workers who showed up to work every day and kept our establishments operating and our food supply safe.”
Recognition for a job well done
At FSIS’ 2020 Administrator’s Awards for Excellence and Under Secretary’s Awards Ceremony, Vasquez was recognized for his service and awarded an Honorable Mention for Leader of the Year (In-Plant). The nomination noted, “Mr. Vasquez has gone above and beyond in developing the inspection teams at two large beef slaughter establishments in the [Texas] Panhandle by noticeably improving morale, addressing potential issues with inspection technique before it becomes a food safety issue, noticing and addressing developing trends in his assigned establishments before they develop into noncompliance and tirelessly working to develop a positive working relationship with industry.” While humbled by the award, Vasquez acknowledged it is nice to be recognized.Of the four FSIS core values — Accountable, Collaborative, Solutions-Oriented and Empowered — Vasquez says he most relates to Solutions-Oriented. If he identifies a food safety issue on the slaughter floor, he immediately addresses the issue, then follows up with a meeting at the end of the shift or during company breaks to further emphasize the correct behavior. He also enjoys recognizing others for a job well done. Once, the establishment was scheduled to slaughter many cysticercosis cattle. Vasquez held a meeting with all in-plant personnel on the shift to apprise them of the situation. The inspectors worked together as a team to make sure the infected cattle were appropriately identified and retained. For the inspectors’ efforts, Vasquez nominated them for non-monetary awards, which they received, and he wrote them letters of recognition.
Establishment inspector to USDA inspector
Vasquez attended Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State University) and studied physical education with the intent of being a high school coach. Plans change, and Vasquez began working in the food industry when he was 21. He served as a quality control (QC) inspector at two “sister” plants in San Carlos and McAllen, Texas that prepared meals for the military. He quickly moved up the ranks and became QC supervisor. Vasquez learned of FSIS opportunities through CSI Pete Rodriguez, who was the FSIS inspector-in-charge at both plants. In 1993, Vasquez joined FSIS as a relief inspector in Amarillo, Texas, and said, “Working in industry as a quality control inspector helped me easily transition to FSIS. My experience included pre-operational sanitation, operational sanitation, sampling and all aspects of food safety – just like FSIS.” He later transitioned to an in-plant FI. After six years with FSIS, he was promoted to CSI and, in 2008, he was promoted again to SCSI.

Vasquez does not credit any one person as his mentor.

David Vasquez Faces Of Food Safety
David Vasquez

“Early in my career, I was a relief inspector, and I met many inspectors and supervisors. I learned a lot from all of them; I saw different approaches and formed my own managerial style,” he said.

Vasquez  has been married for 30 years, Vasquez and his wife Sandra have three adult children, Shelby, Bianca and David, and three grandchildren, Zane, Bella and Colt, whom he enjoys teaching about food safety. An avid outdoorsman, Vasquez loves to fish and hunt. When the time comes, he hopes retirement includes more fishing for speckled trout, redfish and flounder. Every fall, he looks forward to a big reunion with family and friends in the Rio Grande Valley.

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