For International Women’s Day and for Women’s History Month, we want to re-introduce you to the founder of Straughan Environmental – Eileen Straughan. Eileen may have retired two years ago, but the mission and vision she established over 20 years ago is what guides us in our projects today. She blazed a trail for women in the environmental industry and we are thankful for all she has done throughout her 40+ year career. As a younger generation comes up at Straughan, we are still lucky to get to hear Eileen’s stories and gain insight through her passion for and commitment to protecting our natural environment.
Eileen fondly remembers childhood summer trips to Chincoteague, noting that her mother preferred its unspoiled beauty to the urban boardwalks of Ocean City. Not surprisingly, Eileen’s path led her to protect natural resources: she started at the EPA, then worked for Virginia’s State Water Control Board, and later continued her career in the private sector at two engineering firms. It was from these companies that she obtained contracts when first starting her business in 1995. While visiting a national wildlife refuge, Eileen bought 25¢ post cards featuring pen-and-ink bird drawings, printed her contact info and credentials, and mailed them to potential clients. As a result, she was asked to delineate the wetlands for Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the now 12 lane drawbridge connecting six major arteries of the metropolitan transportation system. “When I got the job, I realized I needed to hire someone because it was not going to be safe for me to delineate wetlands out there on my own,” Eileen recalls. She hired an intern, thus propelling her company from a single person effort to a growing small business.
Eileen departed from the community development model of strictly designing to project goals and later spending more money on environmental mitigation. By being involved earlier in the permit process, she could identify resources to avoid and minimize impact with regulatory agencies (often at lower economic cost). She strongly believes in the educational process rather than a Band-Aid approach – “We are all here breathing the air, drinking the water, using the land . . . and we need to protect these resources.”
We proudly carry on Eileen’s vision for sustainable communities and protecting them for years to come.