Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West is officially retiring Saturday after 33 years of serving in the Forest Service, taking care of public land, and serving people.
Her lengthy career began in northeast Utah in 1989 on the Ashley NF and over the years took her to places such as the Prescott NF in mid-Arizona, Colville NF in northeast Washington, and many temporary detail assignments to regional offices, the Washington D.C. office, and many other national forests and districts.
West became Coconino National Forest Supervisor on July 26, 2015, and served just over 7 years, leading the Forest toward big accomplishments such as completing the Forest Plan, Fossil Creek Comprehensive Management Plan, Wood for Life program, Four Forest Restoration Initiative, C.C. Cragin Watershed Restoration Project, and Mt. Elden/Dry Lake Hills Recreation Area.
“It has been such a privilege to serve as the Forest Supervisor of the Coconino National Forest for the past seven years,” said West. “The employees on this Forest are among the most dedicated you’ll find anywhere; they are passionate about the lands we manage and the communities and visitors we serve. I couldn’t have been more proud to serve with them.”
Her focus also included working and building relationships with the Native American tribes in Arizona, while also providing leadership during challenges such as the 2018 Tinder Fire, 2019 Museum Fire, 2021 Backbone and Rafael fires, and 2022 Tunnel, Pipeline and Haywire fires.
“I am so grateful to the Coconino National Forest employees, the communities, our Tribal neighbors, the throngs of volunteers that our so invaluable to us and of course our many partners,” said West. “It’s extraordinary to be part of a community so invested in its national forest. Our partnership with community leaders is something I’ve valued tremendously over the years.”
West has no definite plans for what comes next but will be staying in the Flagstaff area for the foreseeable future and says she looks forward to staying involved in this “wonderful community.”
Deputy Forest Supervisor Michelle Paduani will be the Acting Forest Supervisor for a while as the Southwestern Regional Office looks for West’s replacement. A temporary Forest Supervisor will likely be assigned by the end of August until a permanent replacement is found.