Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Peggy Castillo

July 20th, 2018 at 11:30AM

A picture of Peggy Castillo and her husband, USFS Northern Research Station Forester Paul Castillo
Peggy Castillo and her husband, USFS Northern Research Station Forester Paul Castillo, in 2017 at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota. (Castillo family photos)

Now Chief of Staff with the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, Peggy Castillo started with the Forest Service as a clerk-typist in 1990. She had also been a volunteer with the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Peggy is from the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Reservation and, despite her many life experience, her heart is in northern Wisconsin.

Growing up, her family lived in South Dakota and Minnesota. Three of the kids went into the military, living in the United States, Europe, South Korea and Okinawa, while the other two lived in Rhode Island, Arizona and Indiana. But northern Wisconsin always called them home. In fact her Mom and four brothers--and their families--returned to permanently live there.


What is your favorite part of your job?                 

My favorite part of the Northern Research Station / Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) is working with the dedicated employees who are committed to the mission, and with the vision for what a future unit should look like. It’s really a team effort, and I’ve been thankful for the opportunity to be a part of that team.


Who or what inspired you growing up?

Gosh, I‘ve been inspired by so many courageous women and men who took unpopular political stands for their beliefs. On a personal level, I’ve been inspired by many family members: farmers, military men, and courageous women, both native and non-native. But my mom, especially, has inspired me. As a teenage she wasn’t able to earn her high school diploma, so she returned to school as an older student, earning her GED as well as a college degree.

As an interracial couple, my parents endured negative comments in the late 1950s thru the 60s, but they met this adversity with grace and courage. Their actions inspired me to this day. My great-grandpa John was a member of the Midewin society and an Ojibwe holy man. His life was inspiring; he grew up in the late 1800s in a society that saw him only as a “mixed blood”, but he worked starting at the age of 10 in the lumber camps. He learned to read and write, speak three languages (Ojibwe, English and Norwegian), and become a carpenter as well as an accomplished pow-wow drummer, dancer and singer. He lived into his mid-90s and still made lumberjack pancakes! 


A picture of Peggy Castillo at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.
Peggy Castillo shows off a fun find at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota in 2017. (Castillo family photos)

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

My husband Paul Castillo, who also works for the Forest Service, and I are devoted Chicago Cubs fans. Go Cubs! I like to read, watch movies, and hike in state or national forest and parks with my husband. He is a forester, so our hiking always includes some sort of tree and/or plant discussion. I’m also totally obsessed with genealogy. I forget sometimes that people may not be as interested as I am. But I have no filter when I find new genealogical connections. My husband is kind and supportive and listens to all of my new finds.


What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

My highest personal achievement besides my son is the genealogical family history book that I wrote and self-published for my husband’s family. My professional achievement has been taking a clue from my Mom: I earned two degrees, a BS and an MS in public policy as well as project management certification.


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

Forest Service employees are hard-working, dedicated employees who come in every day and give their best. All types of research, be it on emerald ash borer, urban forest inventory and analysis, thousand canker disease, fire, or wildlife habitats, are important and provide benefits at a national and global scale. Employees make a difference every day. While they are not always recognized by the public or our government officials, they still remain dedicated to doing a good job each and every day.


What are your future career goals?

I always have personal and professional goals, but since I’m at the tail end of my career, I feel my biggest goal is to help others, those who will be around a lot longer than myself. I don’t know that I’m always successful in my mentoring techniques, but seeing dedicated young scientists, technicians and administrative professionals interested in making a difference is encouraging.


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

A career in the USDA Forest Service is a great career, one that offers opportunities to be an advocate for natural resources and for making a difference!