Ferndale has been my home since November 2007. What I love most about Ferndale is its strong sense of community and I feel so blessed to call it my forever home.
I was born and raised in Michigan, and have also lived and worked in Ohio, California, Maryland, New York, Florida, Virginia, and Texas.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Ohio State University, I spent four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, where I served first as a seaman, then as an electronics technician.
After the Coast Guard, I spent two years getting my master’s degree in meteorology from Florida State University, which led to a job as an Atmospheric Scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
At Langley, my research focused on analyzing ground-based, aircraft, satellite, and space shuttle data to better understand how air pollution was transported around the Earth.
After six years in research, I was offered the opportunity to explain Langley’s research efforts to the public and media as a NASA Public Affairs Officer. For four years, I translated NASA research papers into plain English and used that information to inform the media and the public about the amazing work NASA was doing. I also created the first Langley Web site for news, photo, and video releases, so the public and the media had easier access to NASA’s research results.
As a Public Affairs Officer, I made three trips to Russia, the first two in support of NASA’s High-Speed Research program, a joint effort with Boeing to design the next supersonic passenger aircraft. This unique collaboration between NASA, Boeing, and Tupolev was part of U.S. outreach efforts to normalize relations with the former Soviet Union. As the lead Public Affairs Officer for this program, I was afforded the amazing opportunity to not only visit Russia, but to work with my Russian counterparts to plan and carry out a Tu-144 rollout event for hundreds of international media and dignitaries, including the Ambassador to Russia.
As a child of the Cold War, I’ll never forget walking in Moscow’s Red Square or standing next to the statue of Yuri Gagarin in Star City, a fabled place where Soviet cosmonauts had trained in their effort to beat the U.S. to the moon.
In May 1997, I volunteered to work as the NASA Public Affairs Officer in the Russian mission control center in Korolev, supporting our astronauts working aboard the Russian space station Mir. During my last week of the assignment, on June 25, 1997, an unmanned Progress resupply vehicle struck Mir’s Spektr module during a routine docking maneuver, causing damage and subsequent depressurization. From the moment the crew radioed down that they were losing cabin pressure, I would spend every waking moment of the next month fielding questions, writing progress reports, and arranging media briefings for hundreds of international media. It was the first time I had worked a space-related accident, but sadly, it would not be the last.
While working at Langley, I often volunteered to speak to schoolchildren about NASA research, so I decided to take evening graduate classes at Old Dominion University to obtain my middle school teaching certificate. After receiving my Virginia teaching license, I left NASA to teach math and science to middle school students for two years, first at a private school in northern Virginia, then at Space Center Houston, a space museum and official visitor center for the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
I returned to NASA at the Johnson Space Center, working once again as a Public Affairs Officer. For more than three years, I led the contractor Web development team responsible for both the NASA Johnson Space Center and NASA Human Spaceflight Web sites, while also providing writing and media outreach support to the Space Life Sciences Directorate.
The most amazing job I had at the Johnson Space Center, though, was working in the Shuttle and Space Station Flight Control Rooms (AKA “Mission Control Houston”) providing live audio commentary on NASA TV during shuttle and space station missions. Working more than a dozen space shuttle launches at the Kennedy Space Center press site ranked only slightly behind working in Mission Control Houston!
In 2002, I was assigned to be the lead public affairs officer (PAO) for the STS-107/Columbia mission, a 16-day science mission – it would prove to be the highest and lowest points of my NASA career. For over a year, I worked closely with the crew, helping them translate descriptions of their complex experiments into everyday English for use during their media and public events. Then, for 16 amazing days, I sat at the PAO console explaining their research to NASA TV viewers. Sadly, on Feb. 1, 2003, the entire crew was killed on reentry when their vehicle broke up over east Texas, only 16 minutes from landing at the Kennedy Space Center. I spent the next week in a blur of phone interviews and endless media requests while we prepared for a public memorial service led by President Bush.
Six months later, I left public affairs and returned to the science side of NASA, transferring to the Space Life Sciences Directorate. There I managed human life sciences experiment teams made up of NASA, contractor, and university researchers striving to understand how living and working in microgravity for long periods affected astronaut health and psychology.
I worked in Mission Control one last time during the Expedition 12 mission to the International Space Station when I led the human life sciences team. On my last visit to the building, I visited both the Shuttle and Station Flight Control Rooms one last time and burned their images into my mind. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
In July 2006, I left NASA when my spouse Wendy, an astronaut, retired from NASA and the Navy after 25 years of service. Wendy had flown on the first space shuttle flight after the Columbia accident (STS-114) in July 2005 and we both knew it would be her last flight.
A year later, with the shuttle program drawing to a close, it seemed like a good time to begin our post-NASA lives. We moved to Washington to be close to family on the west coast, though we also wanted to live someplace beautiful after too many years in Houston.
In late 2007, after a relatively short stay in Redmond, we moved to the quiet bliss of Ferndale. I soon got involved with the local chapter of the American Red Cross, then joined our Pacific Highlands HOA Board and the Board of the Ferndale Public Market.
I got interested in City Council while on the City’s Stormwater Advisory Board and ran for Council, and won, in Nov. 2011. In 2015, I gave up my Council seat to run for Mayor of Ferndale, but lost by 103 votes. In Jan. 2016, Council appointed me to fill Councilmember Mutchler’s vacant seat.
In the last seven years, I have primarily focused on my City Council duties, though I always make time to volunteer with a wide variety of local organizations.