10 Qs with
Planner, Lewis County Emergency Management
1. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY?
6. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ADVANCING DIVERSITY IN THE INDUSTRY?
Growing up as a smokejumpers daughter, I always saw myself following in my dad's footsteps, jumping out of planes and fighting fires, learning everything I could from him along the way. However, after a significant injury from playing sports in high school, plans changed. I then ended up taking the structural route of firefighting while also spending time as a wildland firefighter on an engine crew. As I “grew-up” I determined, I needed to move forward in a career that grounded me, but kept me involved in what I loved, public service. After taking some time away, I worked side-by-side with my dad with our family business, while also taking time to finish college and start a family. Life then steered me right back into the emergency management world. A world that is familiar, but also ever changing … I love it!
Diversity often brings with it different experiences and life lessons. These gifts can provide an industry with new ideas and opportunities, giving you the ability to think outside the box. Not everything is cookie cutter. Being open to these ideas and experiences, and having the willingness to try new things is essential in our line of work.
7. AS COMPANIES IN THE INDUSTRY INCREASE THEIR EFFORT TO RECRUIT MORE WOMEN, WHAT ARE SOME WAYS COMPANIES CAN SUPPORT RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION EFFORTS?
2. wHAT PROJECT OR ACHIEVEMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
Being a woman in this industry is not always easy. Though I love my job, I do struggle with the “Mom Guilt”, or finding ways to keep up with others around me who have less priority areas than I do. One of the best things about working in Lewis County is the family environment. They give flexibility, they encourage family involvement, and they care about who you are and how you are doing, both personally and professionally. Showing that care for your employees, giving them opportunities to grow but also supporting them, is critical. And speaking from a Momma standpoint, a supportive organization who embraces family, knowing it should be your #1, is essential.
When I am asked what I am most proud of, the first thing that comes to mind were the life changing times when things were tough, but you made it through. The times when my husband and I were both in college and my husband working full-time and away from home much of the time. I was in my Master’s Program, as well as volunteering for the American Red Cross, raising a toddler, working for my family's business, and writing a CEMP for a local municipality as a contractor. I am not sure when I slept or how I managed to get through those times, but I did … we did, successfully, and for that I am proud.
8. HOW DO YOU STAY ENGAGED WITH YOUR COMMUNITY?
3. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE A ROADBLOCK FOR WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY?
In the emergency management world, relationships mean everything. In a small county with a population of approximately 80,000 people spread across 2,500 square miles, this has a completely new meaning. You have to be embedded into the community. You volunteer for different organizations around your community. You attend community events. You dress up your emergency management truck and participate in the small town parades during the summer. You “humanize” your Facebook posts so people can relate. You put yourself out there. You meet new people. You learn the history. You find the small mom-pop restaurants and talk to those that have lived here for generations after generations. You show up and you become available. And when I say you, it is all of you. Include your family, your kids, and even your 4-legged friends.
There seems to be the preconceived notion that women just are not “enough” in this industry. We are too emotional, or weak. Sometimes we just are not experienced enough or cannot be trusted because we have other priorities. Though times have changed significantly over the last several years, I have experience firsthand this attitude, especially if you have a family. I love seeing the change with so many women in the field now, it is nice that we all have a voice and seat at the table. We seem to be more accepted. When we work together collaboratively, we can do so much!
9. ANY TIPS FOR WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
4. What ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN GETTING THEIR START IN THE FIELD?
I STRUGGLE with this … A LOT! I often find myself working at home when I should be off. Attending after hour meetings, even when I do not have to, or I could attend via Zoom cutting back on the 2-hour drive time it takes to get there and back. I try to keep up with those that have less responsibility than I do, with the sacrifices of my family or even my own personal time. One thing I have put emphases on since the New Year has been figuring out that work/life sway … not balance because it never is a balance. I am lucky enough to work in an organization that puts me as an employee first, recognizing that I have a family and life outside of work. They hold me accountable and encourage me to take care of my family and me. I was very vocal with my goal for a better work/life sway and they have kept me in check with this goal, reminding me to take a step aside when I can, when emergencies are not happening. Kids are also a great accountability checker, and I often use them as my gage.
Put yourself out there. Do not be afraid to have a voice. The emergency management world is all about relationships. Put yourself out there and get to know the people and community you serve. Become connected and you will learn much more. Always be willing to learn. This field is ever changing and growing. Does not matter if you took a class 5-years ago, take it again if you have the opportunity. Be prepared for change, willingness to learn, and open to the opportunity of growth.
5. wHAT SUGGESTIONS DO YOU HAVE FOR BUILDING A POSITIVE TEAM CULTURE?
10. WHAT’S A FUN FACT ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW?
Do not forget to have fun. We often times find ourselves working on really hard tasks, with much of our focus on the “bad stuff”. During down times, or even in times of emergency, be sure to take some mental health breaks. Nerf gunfights, doggie visits from our 4-legged friends, a “healthy” supply of our comfort foods in the EOC, jokes, check-ins, etc. are ways we build a positive culture within our team. We like to have fun, but know when it is time to get serious and get things done.
Fun fact … as a woman anyway. I was living in small family community where they had limited sporting opportunities for girls. I had just moved from an area were girls had many sports, much like the guys. Basketball was my “thing”, but when I moved that changed. The small town we moved to when I was in 6th grade had limited sporting opportunities for girls, so with basketball being my “thing”, I tried out for the boys basketball team. It became quickly apparent that this was a frowned upon situation and was extremely frustrated when I was told, “You may be one of the best we have seen, but you need to try out for cheerleading or take home economic classes.” My parents were equally as frustrated. I told my parents, in 6th grade, I wanted to make a change. So, we went to school board meetings and raised our voices at the unfairness. Not much changed so we made a call to Title IX. It was determined that there was in fact an unjust in how female athletes and male athletes were treated. This forced a change. Now they have a State Championship GIRLS Basketball Team. I suppose another proud moment in my life as well. Glad to make a change in other girls that grew-up behind me.