Peggy Fisher grew up in Eugene, Oregon and has been working with the USDA Forest Service for 30 years. She exemplifies strong leadership at work and in her community. Shining through Peggy’s story is a passion for building things and ideas, as well as lifting up the people around her.
Who or what inspired you growing up?
My great aunt and uncle were ranchers/farmers out of Holley, Oregon. They worked hard and loved people harder. They defined humility. They didn’t define family by blood, but offered a helping hand and a prayer to all who needed it from the troubled teens that came to live with them to the neighbors needing help with their farms and ranches.
What do you like to do for fun in your free time?
I enjoy playing with my granddaughter and doing anything outdoors, like running, hiking, or biking. I also like building anything from decks to lamps to quilts.
What do you do in the Forest Service and when did you start working here?
I’m a civil engineer by training and started working with the Forest Service in 1989. I came to Central Oregon in 1992 and am now a staff officer in charge of engineering, minerals and fleet vehicles on the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and the Crooked River National Grassland.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy any opportunity to do real engineering work, such as bridge inspections, Burned Area Emergency Response assignments, design reviews, and contract administration. I work with people to solve problems like designing fish passage, bridge construction, or selling a ranger district. I also enjoy mentoring others who are making careers in the Forest Service.
How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?
I learned early that girls get dirty, work hard, and play harder. I grew up helping my dad build our house and along the way have had gifted people show me how to build things. I’m fortunate to have an education and even more fortunate to have worked with amazing people at all levels of the organization and in various departments that have been willing to teach me, challenge me and correct me when needed.
Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project that you're currently working on.
I have spent the last 3 years working on the sale of the Sisters Ranger District Administrative Site and development of a facility replacement plan. I worked with a great team of folks from engineering, lands, NEPA, contracting, and resource specialty areas. It has been a complex project with several iterations. Some attempts at being innovative have been blessed and worked, while others have been learning experiences. It’s been an interesting mix of policy, politics and practical application.
Describe a professional or personal achievement that you are particularly proud of.
In 2015, I was awarded the National Engineering Manager of the Year by my peers and staff. I have worked with amazing people in my profession and can’t take all the credit for anything. I’m proud of the development of a remarkable, talented staff. I also value the work I do coaching, teaching, or mentoring youth through ASPIRE or After School Buddies programs. As part of this work, I teach at-risk girls to build desk lamps.
Why do you think your field is important?
Engineering helps us safely access and enjoy the forest. It impacts the roads we drive, trails and trail bridges we hike, campgrounds in which we camp, buildings used by the public and our employees, and streams where we recreate. Engineers can be involved in every aspect of land management. Our training prepares us to be problem solvers and look for ways to be more effective and efficient.
What are some of the greatest challenges confronting your field?
Limited budgets and declining infrastructure. We haven’t had the budgets to maintain our roads, bridges, and buildings to the levels needed. The challenge is helping line officers determining where they are going to spend our limited dollars, where is the greatest need to provide safe facilities and or roads for the public and our own employees.
What are some of the most promising strategies being used by the Forest Service to address these challenges?
Congress has asked for a more comprehensive package from the forest service to demonstrate our infrastructure needs based on how those needs benefit the agency’s mission. Another promising strategy is coordinating with partners and neighboring forests to fund specialized technical infrastructure work.
How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
Our work is done with care and forethought to balance public use and stewardship of the land for today and tomorrow. We try to prioritize these and maintain facilities and roads to the best of our ability within our given budgets. I know that sounds canned, like a public flyer, but I really believe in multiple use, conservation, and the value of public lands. I want folks to see how hard we work.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?
It’s your career and you can make it what you want. Believe in what you do and understand how your job fits into the Forest Service mission. Get involved in things or take details that stretch you, but don’t be afraid to stay in a job long enough to feel comfortable in your ability to do a good job. Know that it’s about relationships with your peers, partners, and the public.