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Angie Wieck, Published October 07 2013

Retiring Berglund recalls 39 years with Fargo Cass Public Health’s environmental services division

FARGO - As he reflected Monday on his 39 years with the environmental services division of Fargo Cass Public Health, Myron Berglund shared one of the strangest calls he received.

“How do you get rid of a rodent with the body of a squirrel and the tail of a lizard living in your duct work?” the caller asked

The caller complained the animal urinated on his glasses every day as he took a nap, and he wanted someone to help him get rid of it.

Berglund’s answer: “Did you ever consider getting a cat?”

He assumes the gentleman was satisfied with his suggestion because he never heard from him again.

Berglund, whose last day as director of environmental services was Friday, said several of the stranger stories from his tenure involved people with mental health problems.

One of them occurred in the middle of the night some 30 years ago. Berglund was called to inspect a train parked outside of Dilworth because its passengers complained they were infested with lice.

When Berglund and his co-workers arrived, they asked to speak with the person who first complained of symptoms. The man, who was a waiter on the train, showed inspectors his “infested” blanket. He took out a knife and shaved off lint, which he referred to as lice.

While inspectors concluded his delusion was due to coming down from a drug or alcohol high, the man was still able to convince the passengers they, too, were infected.

Odd stories aside, a majority of Berglund’s real work involved inspecting businesses licensed by the city or county such as restaurants, tattoo parlors, swimming pools, pet stores, tanning salons and day cares.

He did not share the grisly kitchen stories one might expect, although he admits restaurant inspections have changed a lot over 39 years.

“Food inspections are now based more on science than housekeeping,” Berglund said. “Nobody has ever gotten sick from a dirty floor, but many people have gotten sick from a refrigerator that didn’t work properly.”

He also said the arrival of more ethnic restaurants has been challenging for inspectors.

He remembers when he was introduced to balut eggs, which are mature duck eggs considered a delicacy in Southeast Asia.

Here, all eggs must be refrigerated so they do not spoil or cause a foodborne illness, but Asian restaurant owners protested this because they wanted the ducks to continue to live and grow in the shell.

“They were incubating eggs, and we were refrigerating them,” Berglund said.

Berglund is proud of the job his division has done regarding food safety. He said the number of foodborne illnesses over the past 40 years in our area is low and he thinks the division is the reason.

“We think we’ve prevented them, but how do you prove that? We just say ‘No news is good news.’ ”

Berglund said what he will miss most about the job are the people.

“I made friends and relationships when I was at work,” he said. “That was my style of management. Get them to respect me because they like me.”

Berglund also feels like he is leaving the city on a good note.

“In the 40 years I’ve been here, the department heads for the city of Fargo and the middle management are as good as they’ve ever been.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501