Seattle City (spot)Light: Heidi Narte

Heidi Narte has always loved trees. As a child, she climbed them. As a teenager, she spent hours hanging out in them. So, it’s no surprise she joined City Light in 2014 as an Arboriculturist. It’s also no surprise that, in honor of the recently celebrated Arbor Day, we’re shining the (spot)Light on her.

A native Washingtonian, Heidi grew up on Bainbridge Island, but resides in Burien where she enjoys its thriving sense of community. “I love the community spirit in Burien. We have so many events,” Heidi said. “My favorite is the Burien UFO festival. There’s a band, costumes, prizes. It’s a lot of fun. In Burien, we find any excuse to get together, shut down the main street, listen to live music, dance, and have a good time.”

Heidi received a B.S. in Urban Forestry with Environmental Restoration focus from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Seattle University. In this week’s (spot)Light, she talks about her role at City Light, her latest hobby of birdwatching (she loves Ospreys) and her passion for the environment.

Heidi in her natural element

“I think the quality of life here in Seattle is amazing. The nature is fantastic. My latest hobby is birding. I’m often tooling around, going for walks with my binoculars. I birdwatch all over. Some of my frequent spots include my neighborhood, Discovery Park, and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Skagit County has some pretty wonderful places to watch birds too. I also enjoy puttering in my garden, taking photos, hiking, and bicycling.”

“Most people know our division as Vegetation Management. We coordinate pruning the trees back from powerlines so they won’t interrupt service or be a safety issue. The City of Seattle has a requirement that for every tree we take down, we plant two. We do two plantings (spring/fall) and perform a lot of outreach to different neighborhoods. I love our Urban Tree Replacement program and our customers love it, too. I often hear them say, ‘you’re giving me a tree?’ And we say ‘yes!’ I think it’s just a win-win for everyone. For us. For our customers. For the environment.”

“When deciding where to plant, we look at historically underserved communities. We examine the census data to see where it might be economically a little harder for folks to buy a tree. We select trees that won’t grow too tall and get into our powerlines. I also try to find trees that have some habitat benefits for pollinators and birds and look at species that are not overrepresented in the city (like cherry or maple trees) to try to build diversity in our tree population.”

“I feel really good about the work that I do. It fits in well with my personal mission statement: To make the environment a little better than when I got here…to improve it without being insensitive to the needs of humans. I want to be a voice for nature that can’t speak for itself—places, critters, and plants.”

Thank you Heidi for taking such important care of our environment and for your significant contributions to the utility!

Seattle City (spot)Light: David Bayard

This week’s Seattle City (spot)Light shines on David Bayard, the supervisor for the Powerline Clearance group in City Light’s Transmission and Distribution.

David is responsible for vegetation management along 1,770 miles of overhead lines in the City Light service area and beyond. He has worked at City Light for five years, and he came to the utility with an undergrad degree in English from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR and a master’s degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA.

City Light’s David Bayard in a tree-climbing competition, April 2016

I got out of school with a English degree in Romantic literature and couldn’t land a job in that field, so I started climbing trees. I began working as residential arborist in 2000. I liked being outdoors and didn’t see myself in an office. I knew I wanted to be physically active with something related to the environment.

I got a job with a tree company and moved out to San Francisco from Boston a year later. Every time I’ve moved I have been able to find a job in arboriculture with no problem. I realized it was something I could do sustainably and got interested in arboriculture as a career.

The focus of my grad studies was ecotourism, but when I got out of grad school in 2008 the global economy crashed. Development agencies and non-profits were firing people left and right. So I moved with my wife to Seattle in 2010 and got a job at Seattle City Light.

When I came into City Light’s vegetation management program, the program wasn’t advancing as quickly as the industry was changing. I saw places where I could stick my nose in and get involved, and eventually my boss created a supervisory position. I applied for it and got it.

A big driver for me has always been connecting people to their environment in a way that is meaningful and impactful to them. When I moved to Seattle in 2010, I had this idea to bring people up into the trees. I started a recreational tree-climbing company, got a business license and started lobbying the Parks department to let us operate as a concession for the public. The Parks department has the biggest and best trees in Seattle.

Now we do one climb a month, April through October. That day is often the best day of the month for me. I get to spend the whole sharing this gorgeous, awe-inspiring 110-foot red oak in Volunteer Park. We bring people up 50-60 feet. It’s very empowering, especially for young people and people that have a fear of heights. They ascend under their own power, so they can look around and think ‘I did this!’ When folks come down, it’s just smile after smile.

Being in the forest and surrounded by trees has its own feeling. There is something different about it. We connect to the natural world through trees in a way that only happens when that connection is alive. Trees are living, breathing things. They have communities. They are directly involved in their neighborhood. And they are huge.

I know that people will never forget their climbing experience, and the hope is that they draw on it when it comes time to vote on land use or decide where to put their money or resources towards conservation.

City Light Working with King County Co. Corrections on Chief Sealth Trail

This years’ April (and May) showers have brought out the May flowers – and the tall grasses along the Chief Sealth Trail.

Seattle City Light has contracted with the King County Community Corrections Division for the last several years to mow this portion of our transmission right-of-way, a partnership that provides participants with meaningful work as an alternative to incarceration.  They’ve done a fantastic job for us over the years, as they are this year; unfortunately the program got started late and we’re about one month behind where we typically are at this time.  Not to worry, the entirely of the trail will have been mowed before the 4th of July weekend.

City Light recognizes that great work the Corrections Division has done in the past established an expectation that isn’t currently being met, and we apologize for any inconvenience that may cause. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we move down the right-of-way.