Heidi Wallace: Serving Her Community
For the past 28 years, the person most concerned with protecting Westbrook’s natural resources has been Environmental Planner Heidi Wallace.
Growing up, Heidi always knew she wanted to do something related to the environment for work.
“I used to go down to the U.S. Forest Service headquarters by my house in Hamden and ask how to do what they do,” Heidi recalls with a laugh.
In 1994, Heidi contacted the town of Westbrook to see if she could complete an internship qualification for college in town by serving one year on the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission.
“That internship occurred in ‘94 when the mall application was before the town, so it ended up being a busy year,” Heidi remembers.
“The next year, the wetlands officer at the time resigned, so I threw my resume in on a whim,” Heidi says.
Twenty-eight years later, Heidi is still in the same position.
“I do everything from enforcement aspects to assisting developers coming to town to overseeing our resources,” Heidi explains. “I work closely with the Conservation Commission, and every day can bring something different,” Heidi says.
Asked her favorite aspect of her job, Heidi responds that it’s maintaining the trails.
“I get a lot of feedback from people on what they like seeing, which is fun. People always start with a compliment which is always very gratifying.”
Sometimes the requests she hears from the public are to do work like widening an existing trail; other times, it’s to blaze new trails entirely. “Sometimes on a property, there is an existing woods road which is easy, or maybe there’s a natural feature we want to highlight, so we bring a trail by there,” Heidi says.
As for the hardest part of her job, Heidi says it’s the times she needs to tell someone they need a wetlands permit. “That can be hard,” she admits.
One project Heidi is currently working on is getting a Sustainable CT committee working in Westbrook. Sustainable CT is a nonprofit organization and a voluntary certification program that encourages towns to improve best practices and seek grant opportunities that help promote the quality of life of the town and its citizens. The program rewards towns that accomplish tasks ranging from categories like protecting the environment, improving planning, improving transportation, and improving infrastructure.
Towns can be rewarded with grant opportunities if they accomplish enough tasks.
“We’re trying to get the ball rolling on that. We’d like to eventually form a committee here in Westbrook,” Heidi says.
She’s also interested in starting a food scrap recycling program in Westbrook similar to what surrounding towns have done. Those interested in helping with Sustainable CT or the food scrap recycling programs should contact Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working in Town Hall isn’t the only way Heidi serves her community. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Essex Lions Club.
According to the club’s website, “(t)he Essex Lions Club was chartered in 1950 by a group of men with a unified vision of ‘serving their community.’”
“I got involved a few years ago because I admired the dedication of the members,” Heidi says. The Essex Lions Club is now working on promoting its 39th annual Lobster Bake. The event is being held on Saturday, Aug. 5, at Town Park in Essex from 2:30 to 7 p.m., with dinner served at 5 p.m. Tickets to the event are $50, with the money going toward charitable foundations in Essex as well as Westbrook. The event will feature a choice of lobster or steak for dinner, along with sides. Live music will also be played during the event. Tickets are available at Essex Detailing, Bob’s Centerbrook Package Store, Bogaert Construction, and Essex Hardware.
Though she’s lived in Westbrook for over 30 years now, Heidi originally grew up in Hamden.
“My husband and I were in town and saw the town center and really liked it,” Heidi recalls about what attracted her to Westbrook.
Nearly four decades later, Heidi says she still finds the town just as charming as when she first saw the center.
“I like the small-town character of the town,” Heidi says.