“The public can’t advocate for themselves if they don’t know what is going on, they need to understand and know the risks to their safety. Everyone deserves a safe environment.”
Those were some of the first words Pipeline Safety Trust’s (PST) new Community Engagement Manager Virginia Wiltshire-Gordon said when we sat down to discuss how her role would fit in. With answers like that, we’re off to a great start. It becomes apparent from only spending a few moments with Virginia that she deeply cares about the safety and well-being of all people. This aspect makes her a natural fit as PST’s newest staff member and Community Engagement Manager.
Virginia says the position excites her because it will give her the opportunity to connect with communities and provide direct assistance. Historically, PST has only had capacity to help communities who seek support, but now, with Virginia on board, PST can be more proactive and reach communities normally left out of the equation.
“I am excited to meet people where they are at,” Virginia says. “People who have the capacity to reach out are not always the people who could use the support most.”
After her first few weeks at PST, Virginia is already learning tons about the vast ecosystem of pipelines and their operators. She says she is particularly interested in learning more about how public engagement between both industry and the public, and the regulators and the public, has shifted and evolved over time.
“PST has been involved in changing the ways that people are able to engage, there’s a whole history and story to that. I believe the public should be involved in things that directly affect them,” Virginia says. “A lot of the time regulatory processes are very difficult for the public to access, so it is fascinating to learn about how PST has been able to change things to be more inclusive. For example, PST has been involved in developing a Recommended Practice for Pipeline Public Engagement (RP 1185). This effort has been a part of PST’s work for a long time and I’m looking forward to continuing that.”
Virginia says PST’s positive impact on pipeline safety will increase when working together with a diverse and engaged public.
“Everyone cares about safety in their communities as a shared value,” Virginia says. “This is a real opportunity to bridge gaps and bring people together who may not share other values.”
She notes her background in community organizing is what fueled her passion to help different groups understand their common goals in order to co-create their values.
“Being a connector is key,” she adds. “I can’t wait to connect local communities dealing with similar issues and learn what is working well in order to improve everyone’s safety.”
More About Virginia
Virginia joined the Pipeline Safety Trust in August 2023 as the organization’s Community Engagement Manager. She brings a commitment to supporting community education and empowerment to help create safety and a just, livable future for everyone.
Previously, Virginia worked at the research and policy consulting firm ECONorthwest as a technical manager in qualitative and participatory approaches focusing on equity and the environment. Through this work, she connected people’s life experiences with public policy decisions. Additionally, Virginia has been deeply involved with advocacy organizations centering environmental, climate and racial justice. With these groups, she has supported the development of volunteer teams, coalition building, and public participation in government processes. She graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in Environmental Studies with minors in Biology and Mathematics.
Outside of work, you can find Virginia playing soccer, cross country skiing and singing in community.