Growing up, all Michelle Cox could think about was being a teacher. She envisioned herself in a classroom making a lasting impact on young lives, becoming one of those teachers students would remember forever.
Today, Cox is making a significant contribution as a teacher, but her students are not in the classroom. They are her colleagues within the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Office of Field Operations. Cox is a Supervisory Consumer Safety Inspector (SCSI), and her job involves supervising and training new meat, poultry and egg products inspectors. A SCSI also performs a variety of food inspection activities, but it is the instruction aspect that has most captured Cox’s heart.
“This is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had,” Cox said.
FSIS was not Cox’s first choice of employment. Or tenth. She majored in animal husbandry and is an honest-to-goodness cowgirl, having competed in professional rodeo competitions and paying her way through college on a rodeo scholarship
“Not too many people can claim that,” she joked.
Cox found her way to FSIS in 2002. “I was a single mom, and my job had been downsized. The only job I could find at the time was at a cold storage facility”—a facility that dealt with FSIS-inspected products. An FSIS inspector she met on the job encouraged her to apply to become a food inspector.
Cox got the job and was first assigned to a beef plant. She quickly rose to a supervisory position and was awarded the 2011Administrator’s Award for Excellence for creating an informal training program for newly promoted CSIs. The program provides an overview of what new inspectors will encounter on the job and what they need to know to be successful.
“There is no wiggle room when it comes to protecting the public health. It has to be right the first time,” She said.
Cox said it was persistence, patience and a drive to succeed that has fueled her rise within FSIS.
“Success is what you make of it. If you sit back and take the easy route, success will pass you by. If you jump in with both feet and do all that you can, you will be rewarded both professionally and personally,” she said.
Faces of Food Safety is an initiative by FSIS to introduce Americans to the real people who work every day to keep the food in their own homes and yours safe. Click to read more about Cox and other Faces of Food Safety on FSIS’s website.