Seattle City (spot)Light: Lori Fowler

Lori Fowler has served as the Senior Gardener at the utility’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project for the past seven months. “I’m tasked with developing and maintaining our landscapes in a sustainable manner,” Lori explained. “We also ensure that our work reflects our current values while giving a nod to the historical and paying honor to what was here before.”

Lori was born in Seattle, but grew up in California before moving to Oregon. She attended Pacific North West Resource Management School and did coursework at Oregon State University. She and her husband Bruce live in Newhalem and have four children and three grandchildren. In this week’s (spot)Light, Lori talks about her career and her love of horticulture.

Lori and her husband Bruce

“I began my career in parks and street maintenance for municipalities. I took a small detour into social work, but found myself back into park maintenance with Oregon State Parks and, eventually, the City of Kent. I’ve always been interested in the horticulture aspect, and knew the more I studied, it was where I wanted to be. So, I became a Master Gardener, received my CPH – Certified Professional Horticulturist and became ecoPRO certified for landscaping design and maintenance. I also completed coursework in Permaculture and Landscape Architectural design. Being at Skagit is the job of a lifetime which I see as a culmination of both work experience and my passion and hobby.”

“We have a lot to focus on in this area. Things have fallen into disrepair around the edges, which is common when you’re backed up against national park land and the wild. The easier tasks such as planter boxes and maintenance on Main street; areas that are most visible to our visitors, long term focus will be transitioning the area beyond. We recently planted 34 trees in the east arboretum replacing trees that were invasive. We selected interesting cultivars like Korean Fir, Eddie’s White Wonder and Magnolia sieboldii—all of which will showcase variety of texture and color as the trees mature. We’re also working on a rejuvenation project for Ladder Creek Falls where we’ll plant hundreds of native plants and improve the entrance to the area.”

“I’ve always been an outdoor person. My family spends a lot of time hiking and kayaking, but it was my husband who piqued my interest in horticulture. When we bought our first home, he wanted to landscape and, well, it was addicting. I prefer Japanese style gardens when developing personal landscapes. I like the aesthetics. The Japanese maples are my favorite. They’re exquisite. Your garden is a room and should evoke feelings and styles.”

“I live in a national park and would love to visit more national parks. I’d like to return to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I also like to quilt. I think it has something to do with matching colors, aesthetics and textures which complements gardening.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Debbie Martin

Debbie Martin just celebrated her 30-year anniversary with City Light. “Originally, I was brought on as a temp to help with Skagit Tours, but that evolved into a full-time position here at the Skagit,” Debbie said. “Now, I manage the bunkhouse and take care of the hospitality for our crews and visitors.”

Debbie didn’t grow up far from the Skagit Hydroelectric Project—just a short drive away in the small town of Rockport. She graduated from Concrete High School and lived in Marblemount. She now lives in Newhalem, where she’s resided the past eight years. “I just love it here,” Debbie shared. “You can’t beat the beauty of this place. Plus, I get to walk to work!”

Debbie grew up with five brothers, each of whom she loves dearly. She also has four kids and 11 grandkids. “On the weekend, my house is filled with grandkids. They love it here as much as I do!” Debbie exclaimed. In this week’s (spot)Light, Debbie talks about life at the Skagit and what she enjoys most about her role.

Debbie near the Skagit River

“One of the things I love about my job is that I get to make the out-of-towners feel welcome. I meet a lot of our crews who come to Skagit to work on different projects. They all know me. I just want to make sure they’re comfortable and happy with good food and a clean house. I guess the ‘mom’ in me comes out—I can’t help it! Right now, they’re doing a big job at Diablo with Generator 32 so we have machinists and electricians staying with us through October.”

“There’s so much to do in the Skagit Valley. We get out a lot and go camping, fishing and hiking. There’s a campground about six miles from here that’s one of our favorite spots. We also like getting out to Mount Baker. I have a little motor home, so we all pile in and make an adventure of it. I also love to garden at my house. I want my yard to look good; taking care of my flowers is important! When I was younger, my girlfriends and I would go to Ross Lake Resort and stay in the floating cabins. That was probably some of my best times up here.”

“I’ve been lucky to experience many types of roles here at the Skagit. I’ve enjoyed them all because I learned something new about the utility each time and got to meet a lot of good people. I’ve worked at the powerhouses. I’ve helped as a cook in the kitchen. I was a deck-hand for the Skagit Tours. I really loved that. I got to meet all kinds of people and the beauty of the ride was unbelievable. During that time, we did three tours a day, up to 80 people each tour. We had people from all over and it was always neat to meet people from different parts of the world. What fun! Now, I really enjoy Ladder Creek Falls. It’s one of my grandkids’ favorite spots. I also love the Chicken Dinner. I’ve been here 30 years and I could never get tired of eating it!”

Last Chance for a Skagit Powerhouse Insiders Tour

Summer is winding down, but you can still close it out with a scenic and historic getaway. The Powerhouse Insiders tour, found at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project in the North Cascades, never fails to delight visitors. This weekend is your last chance to explore it this season!

The tour begins with a beautiful stroll through the historic town of Newhalem. Visitors learn about the town’s unique history through insightful and entertaining tour guides. Be prepared to feel like you have traveled back to the 1920s as you explore the original construction camp for the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. During your walk, you will look on at the breathtaking Skagit River and learn how City Light promotes a healthy ecosystem for salmon.

Next, you’ll see the wonders of hydropower at work inside the Gorge Powerhouse, which is normally closed to the public. (We don’t call it an insider’s tour for nothing.) You’ll walk the generator floor and learn how City Light makes and manages power. There will be expert tour guides accompanying you, so feel free to ask questions. It’s a powerful experience.

After a full afternoon of adventure and fun, you’re sure to work up an appetite.  Don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. Our cooks have been making tasty picnic lunches for almost 90 years! Enjoy a picnic lunch of chicken (or a vegetarian option) and a side of potato salad to conclude your tour.

We would love to have you along on our Powerhouse Insiders tour before it closes for the season. Don’t miss your chance! Sign up today:

Seattle City (spot)Light: Vonie Polomis

Vonie Polomis has worked for the City of Seattle for more than 33 years. Born in Washington, she’s lived in different parts of the state like Chelan, Yakima and Spokane. Now, Vonie enjoys the scenic beauty of the North Cascades as an Administrative Specialist III at City Light’s Skagit project where she’s lived the past 10 ½ years.

Family is also the upmost importance to Vonie who has two children and three grandchildren. She’s also an animal lover which is seen through the affection and care toward her 13-year old pet dove, Girlbird. In this week’s (spot)light, we learn about Vonie’s love of people, her community and Mother Nature.

Vonie is all smiles with her pet dove, Girlbird

“It’s been a blessing in my life to be up here. People always ask me how I live here. My reply is ‘How can I NOT?’ When I walk out that door, I’m in God’s country. The mountains are just beautiful; I’m so at peace in my home. I have two huge 12-foot windows where I just sit and look at nature. I like to feed the birds. I joke that the blue jays think of me as the bird lady.”

“I love people and the work I do for City Light. Customer service is something I greatly value. I also enjoy working with all the different teams and meeting the different folks throughout the utility. I’ve been with the City for the chunk of my career so I have a whole network back in Seattle! I work hard to make sure that the Skagit project sees different programs and events, such as Family Day and the RSJI initiative which I’ve been involved with the past six years.”

“I like being involved with the community. The people of Concrete are waiting for me to move there! So, now I’m thinking of what I can do for them once I’m there. One of the things that comes to mind is a Boys and Girls Club. They don’t have one and I’d like to focus on that when I move to town. They also want me on the Historical Museum Committee.”

“Another hobby of mine is softball. I played into my 40s. There’s a softball tournament called ‘Squash Ball’ that’s been held for the past 30 years or so. It’s with the firefighters in the community and other local folks. Anyway, I realized that Newhalem didn’t have a team last year. So, I rallied and made it happen. I even played! I actually hit the ball and got a double. It was amazing. So much fun.”

“I’ve come across many people in my life, but one piece of advice from a friend really stood out. She told me ‘If you don’t define yourself, I guarantee you that somebody else will, and you won’t like it.’ And that’s what I live by. I’m even writing a book about it called ‘I Wish I had the Nerve.’ Maybe one of these days when I retire, I’ll finally finish it!”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Kathy Hunter

Kathy Hunter’s City Light career began in June of 1990 when she joined the utility as a Cook Camp Service Aid for Skagit Tours. In her time at the utility, she’s taken on various roles from cooking and backing for the tours to other jobs as a Janitor, Laborer, Food Service Supervisor and Store Clerk. In 2013, she became a full time Administrative Specialist II starting at Ross Powerhouse, also filling in at Diablo Powerhouse. She now works out of the Skagit Office in Newhalem.

Kathy lives in the town of Marblemount with her husband of 36 years. Together, they have two children and three grandchildren. “We live near the Cascade River,” Kathy said. “We like to take our grandkids down there to walk along the trail. Gardening is another hobby of ours. Right now, our peas are starting to bloom!” Kathy also volunteers in Marblemount and has been a member of the Board for ten years, serving as president for the past three. In this week’s (spot)Light, Kathy recounts her days of Skagit Tours and shares her love of the outdoors.

Kathy Hunter at Skagit

“My first job at City Light was with Skagit Tours. I was hired as a camp service aide and worked at the cook house during the tour season. Back then, we worked out of Diablo at the old cookhouse and had three tours a day. The incline was also part of the tour. Guests would ride it up, get on the boat and ride it back down after the tour. We used to serve the Dam Good Chicken Dinner when they returned. I did that for about ten years. Eventually, I was brought on as an admin for the team at Ross Dam. That’s actually what started my career as an admin for the Skagit which is where I am today.”

“You can imagine what it was like to work up at Ross Dam. Getting there was a little adventure. There used to be a big crew boat that would transport us to the office. They do it differently now, but it was still kind of neat at the time. Occasionally, we would see something interesting during our boat ride. One time we saw a bear. Another time we saw a little two-seater amphibian car skirting across the lake. That was pretty funny.”

“One thing I really enjoy about my job is the location. Who can drive to work every day and just look at the scenery? There are very few folks who can. I love the country and its quietness. I just truly enjoy the outdoors. My dad was a farmer so I grew up on a farm. We had raspberries, but also chickens, pigs and cows. I even talked my dad into a horse. Those are some of my favorite memories. It was just amazing to grow up that way and have that kind of lifestyle.”

“Being at the Skagit is kind of like family. I love everyone I work with up here. When it’s time to retire, it’s going to be hard. Working with these folks for so long has been truly special.”