Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Felipe Sanchez

Office of Communication
August 1st, 2017 at 9:30AM

A photo of felipe sanchez at work at the U.S. Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Felipe Sanchez at work at the U.S. Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Sanchez family photos.)

“It’s only a temporary job” was what Felipe Sanchez first thought about his summer position with the U.S. Forest Service. However, what seemed to be was not to be and now Felipe’s “summer job” has become a 37 year trajectory through many career facets within the Forest Service.

Felipe decided to take the summer job with the Forest Service mainly to develop his skills as a researcher in organic chemistry. But thanks to the mentors who accompanied him along the way, he realized that his background in chemistry exposed him to an environment full of possibilities to grow within the Forest Service’s Research and Development program.

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

I’m a budget coordinator and I manage the entire Forest Service research budget. In addition to the numbers, I have to be up to speed on all the researchers’ portfolios and all the research programs. Thanks to being a researcher myself, I am familiar with the work that’s being accomplished across the United States for the Agency. It’s that comprehensive knowledge that I really like to take and put together into a cohesive message. The put-it-all-together piece is what I really enjoy.

A photo of felipe sanchez and two coworkers outside of a restaurant
Felipe Sanchez out for a bite to eat with fellow U.S. Forest Service employees. (Sanchez family photos.)

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

I actually started in Florida in 1980, right out of high school. My project leader at the time had recruited me, although my interests were to go into organic chemistry. However, as I began working and learning more about what Forest Service does, I started seeing the connection with my interest in organic chemistry and particularly the research branch of the forest service. By being a researcher and getting my Ph.D. in organic chemistry, I am able to bring  a unique niche to my research that not many other researchers can do.

Where did you grow up and what inspired you in your youth?

I grew up in south Florida. My hometown is Immokalee, about 30 miles inland from Ft. Myers and Naples, Florida which are on the Gulf Coast.

Who inspired me a lot growing up were my parents. They were third generation Mexican Americans from a migrant community and did not have a high school education, but were very intelligent people. Also, they have a lot of drive and they always pushed me to do better and keep moving forward.

Many people along my journey from college through the Forest Service have inspired me.  Early on I saw qualities of leadership that I admired in superiors and I tried to emulate their examples, which has gotten me to where I am today.

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

A few pounds ago I used to like to play basketball but I am a really home body now.  I really enjoy landscaping around the house--the yard really looks good, if I must say so myself! I do take pride in my house!

What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

Well, I think right now being a Budget Coordinator ranks high among my achievements. I started as a GS-1 in the Forest Service. Now I’m a GS-15 and part of the national leadership for Forest Service research.

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

A photo of Felipe sanchez and his family celebrating christmas
Felipe Sanchez at home with his family. (Sanchez family photos.)

Regarding the experiments that we do in the field, what we want ultimately is to benefit the public with clean water, clean air, and better landscapes. We manage and provide the scientific research base that protects our national wildlands. It’s this research that allows for better protection of communities and a lot of people don’t realized it.

What are your future career goals?

I’ve been with the Agency for 37 years and have seen a lot. I still have aspirations to move up because there’s more that I can contribute and I think I have demonstrated it. Although I’m in budget, I have done significant detail assignments over the years such as the associate deputy chief of research and also as a research station director. In both circumstances I was able to provide leadership to the staff. I would like to eventually take one of those positions permanently.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?

No matter your background, no matter your interests, we can find a place for you in the Forest Service. A lot of people don’t realize the diversity of disciplines that we have. Follow your interests while tying it to the national goal of helping the American public. The opportunities are there and the support is there and Agency leadership is very much wanting to build up our employees. I encourage young people to pursue their interests and don’t be dissuaded. There are always road blocks no matter what avenue you take. You can overcome those, and really create a great career in the Forest Service.  I’m a living example of how you can grow in the Forest Service.