Morton Grove’s health officer recalls career of protecting residents
Bonnie Burnett, Morton Grove's environmental health officer, in her office on Dec. 18. Burnett is retiring in January after 22 years with the village. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:19AM
MORTON GROVE — Though many Morton Grove residents may not know her, Bonnie Burnett has been working for more than two decades to help keep them safe and healthy.
A registered nurse, Burnett, the village’s environmental health officer, is responsible for, among other things, regular inspections of restaurants, groceries and other food service businesses in the village, as well as investigating any complaints related to food safety.
Burnett, who lives in Park Ridge, also works with county officials to provide information about the West Nile Virus. In addition, she handles any issues with solid-waste disposal, including responding to complaints such as piled up trash, and serves as the staff liaison to the Morton Grove Board of Environmental Health.
After 22 years in the post, Burnett is scheduled to retire in January, though the village plans to have her continue part-time to conduct food-service inspections.
Q: How did you start working as an environmental health officer?
A: In the past I worked as director of nursing for nursing homes. I was working for a home health agency in Evanston and somebody gave me a tip that the village of Niles was looking for a nurse to inspect nursing homes. I was told environmental health was part of the job. I had no idea what that was. I learned on the job. When I started it was a lot of fun for me. It was a learning experience.
Q: Did that lead to the position in Morton Grove?
A: I worked in Niles for seven years. Jim Huber, the director of health and human services in Morton Grove, had a full-time position and he asked me to fill it.
Q: What takes up the bulk of your time?
A: It varies. In the summer a lot of my time is spent at the Farmers’ Market doing recycling education. (Outside of that) I can get a complaint that can take two or three days (to address). I deal a lot with residents’ complains about garbage. Occasionally I have to shut a place down. It’s a last resort.
Q: Now that you’re retiring as a full-time Morton Grove employee, what work will you continue to do for the village?
A: I’m licensed as an environmental health practitioner, one of only 400 in the state. State law says communities have to have someone with my license to inspect food facilities.
Q: Are there other things you look forward to doing now that you will have the time?
A: I’m a photographer. I do that for the Chamber (of Commerce and Industry), VIP and other community events. I really want to have time to do more of that. And since my husband died two years ago I’ve had trouble finding the time to take care of my house. I’ll be able to do that.