Name: Laura Carr
Job Title: Air Pollution Specialist
Recommended Reading: Walkable City by Jeff Speck
What was your path into public service?
Lots of my family have had careers in the public sector, so I grew up with public service in the back of my mind as an option that was not only viable but attractive, presenting an opportunity to help people and leverage the power of government for good. Two environmental studies classes in high school posed big, concerning questions about the state of the planet, and a B.A. in environmental policy provided both a framework to grapple with them and further confirmation for me that policy work in the public sector was the best pressure point to try to address them. I volunteered part-time at a Caltrans district office to get experience working for the State, and then committed fully to that millennial rite of passage, the unpaid internship, at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in Sacramento. The internship evolved into a paid position, which I held for more than a year before opting to go back to school for a brief ten-month stint to earn an M.S. in economics. Four months after completing my Master’s, I got the job I’d been envisioning since college at the California Air Resources Board (CARB). I’m hoping for and planning on a full career in public service. The work is fulfilling, the colleagues are inspiring, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead.
What do you do in your current position, and what is something you are working on right now?
At CARB, I’m part of the air quality planning staff, focusing on the San Joaquin Valley. The planning effort to clean the air and meet national air quality standards involves putting together usually quite lengthy documents laying out the strategy to cut emissions. Earlier this year, I helped write and compile a thousand-page plan for the Valley that had been in the works for well over two years—longer than I’ve been with the agency. Now that the plan is finished, we’re moving into the implementation phase, making sure everything is progressing as laid out in the plan. It’s a big task with lots of moving parts, but it’s a team effort, which makes it doable and rewarding.
What cautionary tip would you give to someone looking for a job in state service?
Know that you might not hear back about a job you’ve applied for; sometimes that courtesy isn’t provided, but don’t let it get you down. Relatedly, be patient, be persistent, and don’t despair if you don’t get the first position, or even the first dozen positions, that you apply for. Applying for jobs with the state is at least partly a numbers game, and finding the right fit is liable to take time on the order of months rather than weeks.
What’s it like living and working in Sacramento?
Great! It lives up beautifully to its City of Trees designation, has an eminently walkable downtown (see recommended reading), and it’s invigorating to be surrounded by so many other people who’ve chosen a path of public service.
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