Kate Crowley is one grateful Girl Scout
BY JOSH McAULIFFE
In 2002, Kate Crowley's high profile job with the state Department of Environmental Protection earned her that year's Woman of Distinction Award from the Girl Scouts, Scranton-Pocono Council.
She had been a Girl Scout herself, and was always grateful for the role it played in her early life.
So, with that, Crowley, the longtime water management program manager for DEP's Northeast regional office, decided to rejoin the Girl Scouts as a volunteer board member for the local council.
It's been a busy past few years for the board, for which the Tunkhannock resident serves as secretary.
She was a member of its Council Realignment Committee, which was charged with coming up with a plan to merge four regional Girl Scouts councils. The result: the new Girls Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA), which came into existence two years ago and covers a 30-county area.
At the moment, she's on the board's Long-Range Property Planning Task Group, which is studying the council's 12 camps to figure out how to make them better while also keeping them cost-effective.
Crowley spent the better part of her childhood in Girl Scouts, starting with the Brownies and continuing through her teenage years. In fact, her mother was a Scout leader.
Wanted to return
"You were encouraged to learn new things and go outside your comfort zone," Crowley said on a recent morning at the organization's new office in Olyphant. "It was always something I wanted to get back to."
The Girl Scouts, Crowley said, can provide young girls with a number of useful tools for later in life, from good self-esteem to leadership and entrepreneurial skills, the latter of which troop members get to test firsthand through the wildly popular Girl Scout cookie sale.
"I think the primary thing is giving them a way to discover things they wouldn't have been able to discover (otherwise)," said Crowley, who tries to attend as many local Girl Scout-related events as possible. "It gives them a broader viewpoint of how they can make a different."
A native of Deposit, N.Y., Crowley spent a good part of her childhood at the movie theater owned by her parents, the late Floyd and Betty Thompson.
"The only one in town," she said. "I got to see a lot of movies first hand… I ran the popcorn and concession area. Believe it or not, I still love popcorn."
After graduating from Deposit High School, where she was in a class of 68, the math- and science-loving Crowley entered Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. There she was among only a few women majoring in civil and environmental engineering.
Recycling just starting
"This was back when Earth Day was somewhat of a new thing in everyone's mind. Recycling was just getting off the ground," she said.
Crowley graduated from Clarkson in 3 1/2 years, but had trouble finding and engineering job right out of the gate. So, she took a position as a manager in the production development department at Procter & Gamble Co.'s Mehoopany facility.
"It was a swing shift. Me and swing shifts, it never worked out," she said with a laugh.
From there, she took a job with Northeast Environment, then, in 1984, she landed at DEP. She started out as a sanitary engineer in its waste-management program, where she did reviews of landfills and transfer stations. From there, she supervised cleanups at hazardous waste sites like the former Marjol Battery plant in Throop.
Crowley has been in her current position since 1993. Working out of DEP's Wilkes-Barre office, she oversees a staff of 37, with a coverage area of 11 counties. For the most part, her duties include overseeing the regulation of waste-water treatment and disposal at municipal and privately owned plants, including the Scranton and Lackawanna River Basin sewer authorities.
Times have changed significantly since Mrs. Crowley first arrived at DEP. The days of "blatant, willful dumping" are pretty much over, she said.
"It's very rarely we see something that's borderline criminal," she said. "I do think we've sort of turned the corner."
In addition to her work with the Girl Scouts, for the past decade or so Crowley has overseen her office's sales for the American Cancer Society's annual Daffodil Days fundraiser. And, thanks to the encouragement of her husband, Jim, she's currently being trained as a disaster responder for the Wyoming County chapter of the American Red Cross.
Meanwhile, her term as secretary on the Girl Scouts board is about to come to an end. That said, there's talk of her possibly becoming the next board chairperson, a job she would happily accept.
"I love it," she said of her work with the group. "This is so rewarding."
Meet Kate Crowley…
At home: Resides in Tunkhannock with her husband, Jim. She has a stepdaughter, Amy, and two step grandsons. She is the daughter of the late Floyd and Betty Thompson. She has a sister, Pat.
At work: Water management program manager for the state Department of Environmental Protection's Northeast regional office.
Inspiration: Seeing a bald eagle flying over the Susquehanna River, which makes her feel good about protecting the environment.
Aspiration: To continue serving the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, possibly as its board's next chairperson.
Diversions: Gardening, traveling (last year, she and her husband went to Iceland), reading.
Aversion: "I don't like people who whine when there's so many people in the world who have challenges."
Quote: On why Girl Scouts in beneficial to a young girl: "I think the primary thing is giving them a way to discover things they wouldn't have been able to discover (otherwise). It gives them a broader viewpoint of how they can make a difference."