By Suzanne Hensell, OPACE
A newly named deputy district manager (DDM) in the Des Moines District, Jeffery Jacobsen began his Food Safety Inspection Service career in March 2000 as an intermittent food inspector in Crete, NE. In 2013, he was featured in the Faces of Food Safety when he was an Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officer (EIAO). Fast forward 11 years, and now DDM Jacobsen supervises the Supervisory Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officers (SEIAO) and the frontline supervisors (FLS) who oversee inspectors throughout the Des Moines District. This entire team works together to help ensure the nation’s food supply is safe.
FSIS career path
During his two decades with the agency, Jacobsen has held numerous positions, but his first experience with FSIS was years earlier as a young child. His family owned a small custom exempt meat locker facility where local farmers would bring their cow, pig or goat and his father would slaughter and process them for the farmers’ own consumption (not for sale). FSIS would audit the custom exempt facility, typically once a year, to make ensure all sanitation and labeling requirements were met.
Years later while attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, his father suggested he apply to the intermittent inspector position in Crete. After six months, Jacobsen converted to a full-time food inspector. Jacobsen learned about the role of a consumer safety inspector (CSI) from the CSIs in the plant where he worked. In 2003, the supervisory public health veterinarian suggested he apply for a CSI job. For the next four years, Jacobsen served as a night-shift CSI in Algona/Humboldt/Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Looking for advancement, Jacobsen applied for EIAO jobs all over the country. He moved to Sioux City, IA, in 2007 where he had been selected for an EIAO position. Wanting more of a challenge and encouraged by District Manager Dr. Dawn Sprouls, in 2015 he applied for an FLS position in Ames, IA. For six years, Jacobsen served as FLS covering the Ames, Storm Lake and Sioux City circuits. Once again seeking a new challenge, he applied for the DDM job in Des Moines. DDM Jacobsen began this role in December 2021, directly supervising two SEIAOs and five FLSs.
He enjoys providing support to those in the field; given his background, Jacobsen finds it easy to understand their needs. Regarding his longevity with the agency, Jacobsen said, “I am humbled with what I have done throughout my career and excited for the future of FSIS.”
FSIS core values
Jacobsen believes he demonstrates all four FSIS core values — Accountable, Collaborative, Empowered and Solutions-Oriented — but regards Solutions-Oriented as his greatest strength. Said Jacobsen, “As an FLS, you’re always trying to provide support and solutions to folks while they’re out in the field. For example, I developed standard operating procedures for PHIS exports and sent them to inspectors in the Sioux City circuit. The step-by-step process was easy to follow and helped ensure we met all the requirements.” However, Jacobsen is most proud of his unofficial role mentoring people in his circuit; many were promoted and moved up in the agency and he hopes his mentoring and coaching helped them achieve their career goals. He advises, “Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. There are so many folks in the agency with different strengths that can help you achieve your goals.”
Throughout his FSIS career, Jacobsen has felt Empowered (another FSIS Core Value) by the support he received from his supervisors, including current supervisor, Dr. Sprouls, who has mentored him his entire career.
“Jeff has worked very hard to learn as much as he can in each position he has held. He has always been willing to take on new opportunities, including being detailed to a SEIAO position in another district, as well as mentoring new FLSs in the district. He has the respect of his FSIS team and colleagues, as well as industry management. He is known for being firm, honest and fair in his actions and decisions,” said Sprouls. “He is a great asset to the district, and I enjoy working with him in his new role as a DDM.”
Another mentor, DDM Dr. Mark Johnson, taught Jacobsen how to deal with adversity and keep moving forward, as well as how to deal with everyone differently to achieve the same goal.
Outside of Work
Jacobsen and his wife Brittany have three children (Austin 11, Hailey 8 and Raelynn 19 months) and one on the way – due May 2022! “The two older children love to help cook dinner for the family, so it makes it easy to teach them about food safety and the importance of keeping things clean and cooking to proper temperatures,” said Jacobsen.
When he’s not working, golfing, hunting, fishing, riding his motorcycle or spending time with family and friends, Jacobsen volunteers to cook meals of prime rib, fish and chicken at Friday night fundraisers for the Elks Club in Sioux City.
He also enjoys competing in Steak Cookoff Association competitions where he cooks steaks to be judged. Last year, he ranked 11th in the United States and competed in the World Food Championship in Dallas in November, where he earned 8th place in the steak division. While Jacobsen has to cook steaks to a perfect medium temperature for competition, he prefers his own steaks well done.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)