Portland District People: Patrick Smith, Power Plant Operator, Rogue River Basin Project

Patrick Smith, Power Plant Operator, Rogue River Basin Project

Patrick Smith, Power Plant Operator, Rogue River Basin Project

Describe your job. As a power plant operator I monitor and control hydropower generation, river flow and temperature requirements.  In short, this means I provide clean hydropower for the electrical grid; maintain flood control ensuring our public’s safety and also support fish and wildlife habitat through river flow and temperature operations.

What challenges do you encounter when doing your job? My job is most challenging during heavy weather events – when I must remain alert and manage changes in river flows while also ensuring constant communication with our District personnel.  It’s during these times I am the most vigilant as public safety is paramount.

My biggest rewards come from knowing what I do as a power plant operator is a cornerstone of the District’s mission – supporting our public safety, recreation, and environmental awareness.

What inspires you or motivates you as you do your job? Having worked in the Portland District since 1999, I can’t imagine working at any other District. I have met my career goals here and plan to retire in the immediate area.

What was your first job? I grew up in a small farming community in Iowa. My first work experiences were steeped in farming activities – haying, hoeing beans and general farm chores were part of my life, starting about age 13.  I also worked at the grocery store, as an orderly at the hospital and even at the local grain mill.    I joined the U.S. Navy in 1969 at 19 and retired in 1989 as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 — my success in that career due to many inspiring and influential people along the way.

None of this would have been possible, however, without the values and foundation of life instilled by my parents – who exhibited a strong work ethic and personal responsibility. Their influence helped me to stay grounded and to regain focus when life tossed a curve.

Favorite travel destination? My Navy career allowed me to see many exotic locations. But none has moved me more than when my wife, Debbie, and I spent a week in Washington D.C.   It was a very humbling and proud experience.

What are your hobbies? Fishing is my hobby of choice — with bass, my preferred species.   Nothing is more humbling than to be out-smarted by a fish of any kind. I also checked off one of my ‘bucket list’ items in 2011 with a Kenai River experience in Alaska where I caught some great halibut, one very nice king salmon and a couple of sockeye. It was fun trip – but in hindsight (and in my opinion) salmon fishing in the Northwest may be superior in many ways.