Alumni Career Spotlight: Sherri Peterson

Sherri Peterson
Environmental Science ‘99
Revenue Programs Manager, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services  

Sherri Peterson in blue top with trees and vines in backgroundSherri graduated from SENR in 1999 after majoring in Environmental Science with a focus in Water Policy. During her time in SENR, she was involved in the SENR Honors club and led several environmental initiatives on campus. After graduation, Sherri immediately started working as an environmental planner for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, Oregon and in 2018 earned a Master of Public Administration from Portland State University. She is now the Revenue Programs Manager for the Bureau of Environmental Services in Portland, Oregon.   

Read the full interview with Sherri:  

A Glance at Sherri’s Current Work   

I'm currently the Revenue Programs Manager for the Bureau of Environmental Services in Portland, Oregon. I manage a team that administers various sewer and stormwater utility collections and financial assistance programs. A typical day includes working on City initiatives to advance water equity (researching, brainstorming with coworkers & drafting supporting documents), meeting with our water utility bureau to discuss program outreach and community partnerships (using data to inform strategies for meeting customers where they are at), meeting with bureau coworkers to draft code and rule revisions to be responsive to a changing environment (for example, expanding our sewer connection loan program) and asking how I can support my team/identifying additional resource needs. The most rewarding part of my job is collaborating with other bureaus, such as Water and Planning & Sustainability and working with an array of disciplines, including scientists, engineers, data analysts and equity practitioners, on developing a community equity index.  

Undergraduate Engagement 

What were you involved in during college?    

In college, I was a member of the SENR Honors club (and study group). I also led a recycling pilot program in the OSU freshman dorms, coordinated campus Earth Day events, and participated in environmental activism to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, I played on the women's club soccer team. In terms of internships and seasonal positions during college, I was the Environmental Coordinator for OSU. I organized student volunteers to administer environmental programs that raised environmental consciousness and implemented sustainability programs. Sherri Peterson in an office space with a sign that reads, "PEER Volunteer" and a fake plant next to her

My advice for current college students is to join clubs, volunteer, serve on committees - get involved in your community to demonstrate your passion for public service.  

Continued Professional Development  

What experience do you feel was most valuable in your professional development?    

I experienced two significant professional development turning points. First, I was employed by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon primarily to coordinate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to consolidate tribal government land holdings. In addition to becoming well versed in federal and state environmental code and statute, I gained an understanding of tribal sovereignty, history and culture.  

Second, I returned to school to earn my Masters in Public Administration at Portland State University because I felt that my professional development stagnated mid-career. Our studies included a trip to DC and a trip to Seoul to learn about public policy and I was struck by the differences in culture and governance. That same year, my supervisor nominated me to enroll in a City employee leadership program. Soon after, I filled my supervisor’s role when she retired. 

What was most important to you in your job search?    

I looked for a job with an organization whose values aligned with my own. Because I value social equity and environmental sustainability, I chose to work for my current and former employers.  

"My advice for current college students is to join clubs, volunteer, serve on committees - get involved in your community to demonstrate your passion for public service."

What motivated you to work for both local and tribal governments and what were the main differences between them? 

I wanted to work for Native people before I understood what a tribal government was because I assumed that they were steadfast environmentalists. I quickly learned that to support their members and the broader native community, they balanced environmental protections with economic development and the provision of social services. Working for local government now, there are similarities between Council structures and how resolutions and ordinances come to pass. I wanted to work for the local government to gain experience working for all levels of government, I worked closely with federal and state agencies like EPA and DEQ while working for both the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. There are cultural differences between tribal and local governments in how information is gathered and shared, how issues are deliberated and how decisions are made that took close observation over time to recognize.  

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Feel free to connect with Sherri by emailing her at sherrig121@gmail.com and sharing what resonated with you in her responses! 

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Post created June 2021