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Public Service: It's a Family Affair!


For Public Service Recognition Week and beyond, our posts are highlighting the hard work of public servants across federal, state, and local governments. Join us in celebrating how their efforts make the everyday and the extraordinary #GovPossible!

This week, we’re featuring Sarah and Garrison Anderson, siblings who both work for the Federal Government. Though their lines of work are vastly different, they share a common value of public service. Read on to learn more about how this sister/brother duo found their way into government work!

Siblings Sarah and Garrison Anderson, pictured at the Presidential Management Fellows Leadership Development Program Conference in 2018, have long shared a bond over public service.

Growing up in Amery, Wisconsin, siblings Sarah and Garrison Anderson learned the value of public service early on in their lives. A common topic around their family dinner table was service and community. “Our parents really encouraged volunteerism,” Garrison explained. “We’d get up every Saturday morning when we were kids to go volunteer at a food pantry.” During their high school years, the Anderson siblings spent a week each summer volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to build houses in towns throughout the Midwest. These volunteer opportunities “instilled the responsibility to help my broader community, contribute what I can, and fulfill my civic duties,” Sarah shared.

“[Volunteering] made me feel that I was investing in my community to improve it,” Garrison said. “I think having that mindset at a young age just naturally impacted the types of career paths I wanted to pursue.” Both Sarah and Garrison knew that they wanted to do impactful work, and set out to make that happen.

Different Fields, Similar Paths

Sarah studied biology at Ripon College and went on to get her PhD in ecology at Washington State University. Since her PhD program was interdisciplinary, she received a certification in public policy and discovered her interest in science policy. “I knew that working in the policy space was something I wanted to do,” Sarah said. “As a scientist, government is a great place to do science policy…I’ve always been interested in how policy can shape the world around us.” Sarah was hired in 2018 as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) at the U.S. Forest Service, where she now works as an ecologist supporting reforestation and assessing the ecological health of public lands.

As a scientist, government is a great place to do science policy...I’ve always been interested in how policy can shape the world around us.”
- Sarah Anderson, U.S. Forest Service

Six years after his older sister left home to go to college, Garrison followed in her footsteps and pursued a degree in communication from the same school. Garrison shared that Sarah “provided a great sounding board and resource to know what kind of opportunities were out there.” After college, he moved to Colorado to get his master’s degree in communication and media studies while working for a local business association. “I got to engage with all the businesses in downtown Fort Collins, and their entrepreneurial spirit really spoke to me,” Garrison shared. Inspired by his sister and moved by this experience, Garrison took a PMF position at the Small Business Administration (SBA) after graduation. He’s still at SBA now, supporting training and outreach for the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program.

I got to engage with all the businesses in downtown Fort Collins, and their entrepreneurial spirit really spoke to me.”
- Garrison Anderson, SBA

Connecting as Federal Employees

Today, Sarah and Garrison still share a dinner table; after years apart, the siblings live together again. “We lived together during the government furlough [in 2019] and during a global pandemic, so you could say we’ve been through a lot together,” Sarah laughed.

Even though they’re both taking video calls from the same house, it’s rare for their work worlds to collide. In the evenings, however, they’ll discuss the day’s challenges, help each other handle tricky situations, and celebrate the small wins. They’ve found they can relate to each other as federal employees, particularly through the shared language they’ve picked up during their government careers. Whether it’s navigating the complexity (and acronyms) of the Federal Government or discussing the inner workings of budget season, Sarah and Garrison understand each other despite working in different agencies with different subject matter. Though much has changed since their first dinner table in Wisconsin, their bond over public service hasn’t.

Stay tuned to learn more about how Sarah and Garrison are each making an impact in their respective fields. We’ll be featuring their individual stories in future profiles on the Performance.gov blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn!