In 2001, I worked for the Agriculture Department Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service — as a University of Georgia faculty member rather than as a federal employee. In 2006, I began federal service with the Environmental Protection Agency as an enforcement officer and a concentrated animal feeding operation inspector.
I’m not sure if it was taking off my USDA “white hat” and wearing a regulator’s “black hat,” or the change in America’s ability to trust, but I found that the agricultural sector was no longer as trusting of strangers or the government as a whole. This sector, like so many others, did not believe that I, representing the federal government, was there to help or protect them.
I think Americans lost the belief that we, the federal government, could protect them — or in EPA’s case, protect their environment. Ten years later, most Americans do not trust the government, and many want to abolish the EPA.
McKinley is an environmental scientist, Office of Civil Rights, Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, Atlanta. Sept. 11 is her birthday and wedding day.