WALLINGFORD — Many may know Vanessa Bautista in her role as chief sanitarian for the Town of Wallingford or for her work with the Spanish Community of Wallingford.
But they probably don’t know the challenges Bautista encountered along the way. She was born in Ecuador and moved to the United States at age 10, knowing no English. She said her parents emigrated from her home country first and she stayed with her grandparents and other relatives.
Bautista started doing housekeeping work with her mother when she was 14 years old. She started high school in Hamden and in her junior year moved to Wallingford.
“It was really hard to integrate into that high school community because of the fact that I was already a junior going onto being a senior,” she said.
After high school, Bautista went to
Southern Connecticut State University, where she obtained a degree in public health. While in college, she interned at the Quinnipiac Valley Health District.
“That’s when I had the first interaction with public health and I fell in love with it,” she said.
During the internship she got to see inspections, soil testing, septic-related work and more.
She initially got a job with the Farmington Health District and about two months later was hired as a sanitarian by the Wallingford Health Department. She started the job in October 2016 and was promoted to chief sanitarian two years later.
“I love it here,” she said.
Bautista met Eloise Serrano Hazelwood, then Wallingford health director, when she was a student at SCSU. Hazelwood was also a professor at Southern Connecticut State University and Bautista was in her class.
Bautista was a “very engaged” student with a “good work ethic,” Hazelwood said.
Hazelwood later hired her to work for Wallingford Health Department. She described Bautista as a “capable” person who “listened and took in constructive criticism.”
Hazelwood was impressed with Bautista, because two years after starting her position in Wallingford, she obtained all of the required certifications to become a chief sanitarian and passed her test the first time she took it.
Bautista is also a “good asset” to the Town of Wallingford because she’s able to help the Spanish community, Hazelwood said.
Bautista is also involved in the community, most recently, she helped with vaccine clinics and other events at the Spanish Community of Wallingford. She said her favorite part about being involved is helping Latinos because of the challenges her family faced when they arrived.
She said her message to youngsters is not to give up because “with hard work and dedication anything is possible.”