Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Deidra McGee

Office of Communication
February 16th, 2017 at 10:00AM

A photo of Deidra McGee standing in front of the Triple Nickles’ photo Exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
Deidra McGee standing in front of the Triple Nickles’ photo Exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Credit: Deidra McGee family photos.)

Growing up in Philadelphia, Deidra McGee was exposed to the excitement and challenges of visiting the great outdoors at an early age. This is because Deidra’s parents and early education teachers made getting outside a priority for her. Not surprisingly, this exposure resulted in Deidra wanting to see more and more of the outdoors and now as an employee of the U.S. Forest Service, she gets to visit many national forests—and get paid while doing it!

Over the decades research has shown that introducing children to the great outdoors gives them an appreciation for and a desire to “get out there” more often and Deidra is a prime example of this tutelage. Some of her earliest outdoor adventures happened when she joined the Girl Scout’s Brownies during grade school. In addition, at her elementary school, her teacher, Ms. Williams, took students on nature walks at the nearby park. But the big adventures were attending overnight camp in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania every summer from grade school through middle school.

What do you do in the Forest Service and what is your favorite part of your job?

I’m currently a national liaison in the Minerals and Geology Management Staff within the National Forest System Deputy Area at our headquarters’ building in Washington, D.C.  My favorite part of the job is utilizing my speaking and writing skills, planning national meetings, working on national teams, and building relationships with people and organizations.

What led you to work for the Forest Service and when did you start working here?

Before coming to the Forest Service, I worked for the Department of Labor and while in college, for a short stint, I worked at the Census Bureau. After graduating from college, one of my mentors who was my advisor since I was age 16, told me about a career opportunity in public affairs at the Forest Service Northeastern Research & Development office in suburban Philadelphia. My undergraduate degree is in communications with an emphasis on public relations, so it was a good fit for me. I eventually interviewed for the position and was offered the opportunity in June 1992.

Who or what inspired you growing up?

A photo of Deidra McGee
Deidra McGee speaking at USDA on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. (Credit: U.S. Forest Service.)

My parents inspired me the most as they had a great work ethic both in the home and professionally. My father was a sergeant in the military who served in the Philippines during World War II and eventually went on to work as a federal civil servant with the Naval Aviation Supply Depot and with the U.S. Marine Corps until he retired. Dad was always punctual, kept a tight schedule and cared for the neighbors in our community as he was the block captain. Today, I’m following his footsteps and now I’m the chairperson of all the block captains in my homeowners’ association!  

My mother worked in a variety of careers as a teacher, beautician, social worker, and entrepreneur. She was short in stature, but a giant in my mind as an outstanding mother representing finer womanhood, which gave me the survival skills and wisdom for my success today. One of the best characteristics about both of my parents is they enjoyed being role models, as they adopted me 2.5 months after I was born. I don’t know where I would be today without their unconditional love, support as well as emotional and financial investments in me.

What do you like to do for fun in your free time?

A lot! Traveling, game show trivia, participating in spring and summer outdoor activities, fine dining, experiencing museums, dancing, attending theatrical productions, and  learning about  resilient people. 

What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

My highest personal achievement is being courageous enough to try new things and visit new places when others told me I couldn’t do it or achieve it or not to do it alone. In addition, being the primary caregiver to my late father and great aunt during their golden years when they were extremely ill before they both passed away within two months of each other. My faith, my upbringing and my educational background have all kept me grounded to succeed in life.

My highest professional achievement is coming to Washington, D.C. to work as a civil servant and being exposed to many professional experiences at a national level like attending White House events. In addition, I graduated from the Graduate School USA Executive Potential Program as the The Forest Service’s program is called Senior Leader Program, and rose through the ranks in Toastmasters’ International by being Area Director for the D.C. Region.

A photo of Deidra McGee enjoying her favorite past time, golf
Golf is one of Deidra McGee’s favorite pastimes. (Credit: Deidra McGee family Photos.)

How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?

I want the public to understand that our Agency doesn’t just put out forest fires and that there are a myriad of careers available at the Forest Service.

What are your future career goals?

I would like to continue to improve my leadership and management skills through continuing education and ultimately being the best civil servant I can be.