Sue McLaughlin: Ranger Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
California State Parks Ranger Sue McLaughlin
Up Close and Personal
1. What is your most unique experience working in California State Parks?
Working in my current location, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, is definitely the most unique experience of my career. It’s the largest state park in the country at over 650,000 acres, straddles 3 counties with elevations ranging from near sea level to towering mountains. When I was a field ranger, my patrol sector alone was larger than most of our state parks. You learn to be very self-sufficient when you’re hours from nowhere. It’s not an environment that many would choose to work in but I love it.
2. What is the biggest challenge that you want the public to understand about your profession?
Despite how easy we make it seem, the job can be very stressful and demanding. We need to be prepared to switch gears at the drop of a hat such as when we have to interrupt our interpretive program to deal with drunk and unruly customers in the campground or leave a resource project to hike up a canyon in search of a missing hiker. But these challenges are also what make the job so rewarding.
3. Who or what inspired you to pursue this career?
My late, husband, Gary McLaughlin, who was a ranger with California State Parks for almost 23 years inspired me to pursue this career. He began his career as a State Park Technician at MacKerricher State Park in the Mendocino District and finished as a Supervising Ranger at Anza-Borrego. He was the quintessential generalist ranger.
4. Is there something in your career that you would do differently if given the chance?
I would have started at any earlier age. I was 48 when I graduated from the academy.
5. Any particular parks that are on your dream list of workplaces?
Not really. Having been a park wife before becoming a ranger, I have lived and/or worked in parks for the past 30+ years. These included coastal, urban, mountain, desert and redwood parks which pretty much covers my bucket list.