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Career Story: Section Chief In State Environmental Regulatory Agency

Section Chief In State Environmental Regulatory Agency

Job Title: Section Chief In State Regulatory Agency

Type of Company: I work for a state regulatory agency. My agency is responsible for administering and enforcing environmental regulations pertaining to solid waste, hazardous waste, air quality, drinking water, waste water, wetlands, floodplains and coastal areas -- basically all environmental protection for the state.

Education: BA Urban Studies, Boston University •• MA Urban Affairs & Environmental Planning, Boston University •• MA Dispute Resolution, UMass-Boston

Previous Experience: I started working in the public policy department of a non-profit environmental organization. After 4 years there, I then worked for 3 years as the Conservation Administrator in a town. After that, I moved to my current position in state government.

Job Tasks: I am a Section Chief in the Wetlands Program, which means I supervise all of the technical staff in my specialty area. I supervise 11 people total. My job includes assigning projects, assisting staff as they analyze hydrological and wetland data, reviewing draft documents, and reviewing and signing any permits that we issue.

Most of our work involves looking at proposed construction projects in or near wetland areas. Staff have to do field work to determine if the work shown on the plan is actually reflected on the ground; determine where the wetland is by using plants and soils; and review hydrologic calculations to determine if stormwater management designs are accurate. All of our work involves figuring out whether the work that is proposed is being done in accordance with state regulations.

My job is to supervise the staff and to review what they do, but I also carry a case load of projects of my own. Our projects can range from additions to single family houses, to large subdivisions containing 50 houses with roadways and drainage, to major highway expansion projects. We regulate all kinds of wetlands -- forested swamps, rivers, small streams, dunes, beaches, ponds and the ocean. In addition, we regulate work in floodplains as well.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: My favorite parts of the job are working directly with staff to puzzle out the technical issues in a particular case, and to figure out what step we should take next. I like the back-and-forth of these discussions, and I enjoy helping my staff learn. Often, I learn something from them as well. I also really enjoy field work, where I get to meet the people who are proposing (and opposing) a particular project.

The worst part of the job is having to respond to demands from other parts of our agency, and having to always educate them about what we do.

Job Tips:
1. Take some math and engineering courses, especially in hydrology.

2. Take some courses in coastal geology.

3. Get some experience by working in an environmental organization, or even better, in municipal government. Understanding how government works is a crucial skill.

4. Work on your communication and conflict resolution skills. These are important in any job, but especially so in a regulatory agency.

Additional Thoughts: My job has a lot of variety. New projects are always coming in, and I spend time outside as well as sitting in front of a computer writing letters and other documents. Working in government requires a commitment to public service. This isn't the kind of career where you make loads of money. However, there are other benefits.

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