More often than not, Brenda Straw is the voice on the end of the line when people call the Payson Ranger Station of the Tonto National Forest.
Straw is a customer service representative at the ranger station. She has worked there for almost four years.
Straw's previous career was as a nurse in the Phoenix area for many years. Her husband's work with the National Parks let them move to their property in Young where she helped the community get a medical clinic.
She then found work as a customer service representative with the Bureau of Reclamation during the construction of the new dam at Roosevelt Lake. When that project ended her BOR work took her to Phoenix, then she was able to get the job in Payson.
Straw makes her home in Punkin Center now, but with her knowledge of the Rim country, she is a great asset to the visitors coming to ranger station for information.
She said the people are the best part of her job. She enjoys meeting all the different people and talking with them.
Though talking with them can sometimes be a challenge too.
There are language barriers with foreign tourists and sometimes with English speakers too, she said with a laugh.
The most frequently asked question she hears is, "Where can I go camping?"
One of the most unusual questions Straw said was when a young woman called and asked how many changes of clothes should she bring for her children on a camping trip.
"It was about the fourth time she had called. I could recognize her voice. It was obvious it was her first time camping," Straw said.
She said sometimes you have to almost plan the whole vacation for callers. They say they want to go camping where there are trees and water and hiking trails and where they can have a fire.
"During this drought that has been a hard one to answer. But there are still ways to have fun even though there are restrictions," she said.
Outside of her work with the public, Straw is active in the Tonto Forest's civil rights program. She chairs the group that monitors whether the Forest Service is employing enough women, minorities and the handicapped.
Name: Brenda Straw
Occupation: Customer service representative
Employer: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service
Birthplace: DeKalb, Ill.
Family: Married with two children and six grandchildren
Personal motto: No pain, no gain.
Inspiration: Being told I couldn't do "it" and deciding to show them I could
Greatest feat: Raising my children to be healthy, successful adults and good parents.
My favorite hobby or leisure activity: Working outside, cooking and crafts.
The three words that describe me best: Outgoing, strong-willed and open-minded.
I don't want to brag, but: I helped Young get its medical clinic.
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Florence Nightingale.
Luxury defined: Not doing anything.
Dream vacation spot: A cruise.
Why Payson? My husband's work with the National Park Service at Tonto National Monument.