This is the eighth in a series of stories about Clean Energy Champions—real people who are taking action to support or join the transition to a clean energy economy. Their stories illustrate the many ways you, too, can become a Clean Energy Champion.

Since 1985, the United States has celebrated Public Service Recognition Week to honor the people who serve our nation as federal, state, county, and local government employees. Here, you can meet some of them who work at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Vanessa Arjona

Vanessa Arjona

Operations manager, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office
7 years of public service

What drew you to public service?

Migrating with my parents to the United States from Colombia in my teenage years was one of the most formative experiences that drew me to public service. It helped me realize the important role government programs can play in helping migrant families have a chance to build a foundation for a better life for themselves and future generations. Public servants play an even more crucial role because they are ensuring these programs are equitably distributed, and I want to be part of making that happen.

What aspect of public service do you find most rewarding?

Contributing to a better society by giving people access to affordable and clean energy options. Families should not have to compromise putting food on the table over wanting to make decisions that improve their lives, their health, and their environment. Knowing the work I do can help people make clean energy choices without having those decisions affect their financial stability is the most rewarding part.

What was your path to EERE/your career in clean energy?

When I was completing my master’s degree at George Washington University, I took an energy sustainability class taught by a professor who also happened to be contractor for EERE. I was looking for jobs, and the professor mentioned a position that had just opened up supporting the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Technologies Office. I applied for it, and here I am!

What advice do you have for Clean Energy Champions who want to pursue careers in public service?

There are many wonderful opportunities offered through DOE and EERE, including internships and fellowships that can be great options to gain experience in the federal government. This is a truly remarkable time to be in the government and be part of helping shape the way our country will look in the future. DOE’s Clean Energy Corps offers a tremendous opportunity for those looking to start a career in the federal service with DOE, so I’d encourage you to apply!

John Horst

John Horst

Communications specialist, EERE Communications
22 years of public service

What drew you to public service?

Public interest and public service usually go hand in hand. I remember the day I volunteered as a member of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. Their nonprofit meetings involved lively discussions to address real problems that might impact the state—pollution, urban sprawl, forest fires, public health, affordable education, and protecting the environment. I was instantly hooked. As President Lincoln said, "Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed."

What aspect of public service do you find most rewarding?

Being a storyteller on behalf of EERE. I've been fortunate to witness and share stories of cutting-edge technologies moving closer to the marketplace at DOE and NREL and promote several collegiate competitions—a solar car race on Route 66, the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall, and engineering students flying hang gliders at Kitty Hawk built entirely out of pulp and paper. It truly has been inspirational to highlight these achievements, aimed at investing in our next generation of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and educators to keep America at the forefront of science and innovation.

What was your path to EERE/your career in clean energy?

I began my career as a journalist, working for a couple of daily newspapers in the Midwest covering sports, writing local columns, and covering breaking stories. I then moved into broadcast operations for a cable movie channel before I decided to become more active advocating for people, causes, their positions, and their organizations. I switched from a career in media to career in public affairs at DOE.

What advice do you have for Clean Energy Champions who want to pursue careers in public service?

Take an extra minute to notice what is happening around you—in your home, community, across the world. Notice all things from different angles, and gauge where there is a need. How can you make an impact? What skill sets can you provide to influence positive change? Being a Clean Energy Champion comes in all forms, whether that is sharing what you have learned in school or at work, or driving less frequently.

Mike Weissmiller

Mike Weismiller

General engineer, Vehicle Technologies Office
8 years of public service

What drew you to public service?

The main appeal of public service for me is the opportunities it brings to use science and technology to positively impact society. Working for DOE is particularly exciting, because of the unique facilities we have in the national laboratory complex and the ability to conduct open research and development.

What aspect of public service do you find most rewarding?

The ability to convene stakeholders is an important aspect of the work at DOE. This provides the opportunity to meet many smart, thoughtful people who have taught me a lot. When we are able to get different groups to agree on a solution that can offer a "win-win" and benefit the environment, it is very rewarding.

What was your path to EERE/your career in clean energy?

I grew up near the GE Transportation locomotive factory in Erie, PA, and interned there in college. Although I worked on different technologies in graduate school, I always thought I might return to the transportation sector. As I was finishing my postdoc at the Naval Research Laboratory, I was lucky to find an opening in the Vehicle Technologies Office.

What advice do you have for Clean Energy Champions who want to pursue careers in public service?

Your progress is not linear, and sometimes you may be measuring success in the wrong way. Keep the big picture in mind. Do not be afraid to change your approach if you need to.

Clean Energy Jobs

EERE is hiring! Check out these career opportunities, and read more about jobs for Clean Energy Champions.

Clean En∙er∙gy Cham∙pi∙on

/klēn/ /ˈenərjē/ /ˈCHampēən/

noun

1. A person or group that takes action to support or join the transition to a renewable energy economy, with the knowledge that reducing carbon emissions provides daily benefits to every American so they can live happy and healthy lives.

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