Like many of my peers, my journey into the world of hazardous materials management has had many twists and turns. The journey began in 1978, and at that time I had no inclination of where it would take me. I started out with a goal to become an environmental police officer, or game warden as they were referred to back then. With that goal in mind I earned an associate’s degree in conservation law enforcement and followed that up with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a fisheries concentration. It was while working towards my bachelor’s degree during a toxicology course that I had my first encounter with the concept of hazardous materials. Even then, I still had visions of working in fisheries. The real transition started after I graduated.
I started working in a temporary capacity for a paper coating company, James River Graphics, in their environmental department. This was my first experience with the worlds of RCRA hazardous waste, the CAA and the CWA in practical applications. It was this work experience that really jump-started my foray into a career in hazardous materials management.
My next opportunity was basically being in the right place at the right time. I was working at a manufacturing facility and started assisting the safety department with completing air emission reports that were required. It was around this time that they also were drawn into the POTW industrial pre-treatment program. From there, the position of environmental technician was created. It was while in this position that I started attending more conferences and workshops on various state and federal EH&S topics on both existing and new regulations. I earned my waste water treatment operator’s license, was appointed to the LEPC, and became a state certified toxics use reduction planner under a 1989 state regulation. It was shortly after that I started researching various professional accreditations, certifications and memberships, which led me to IHMM, earning my CHMM certification and eventually joining ACHMM /AHMP.
Luckily, my company was very engaged on individuals continuing to learn and advance in their fields, which allowed me to attend my first national conference in 1999, and each year since. With their backing I was able to earn my masters in environmental management, over twenty years after completing my undergraduate studies. I am not only involved with EH&S at the facility I am based out of, but have been pulled into several corporate teams dealing with environmental compliance, sustainability, health & safety as well as product compliance
Through the networking opportunities and contacts that I have made through AHMP, I became involved in the “Admin Group” on the national level, and then eventually in the local chapter where I have served in several different capacities, and continue to serve today. Recently I have had the honor of being appointed to a Director’s position on the AHMP board. The continuing education opportunities through both the support of my employer and my affiliation with AHMP have allowed me to evolve my position from a job, into a career as a hazardous material professional. On a weekly basis I get to interact with regulators, educators, and professionals from all disciplines of environmental health & safety. Being involved both locally and nationally allows me to attempt to give back to organizations that have been a tremendous influence in advancing my career.