Suffolk woman named regional forester

Published 10:45 pm Monday, September 19, 2011

The Virginia Department of Forestry has chosen a former county forester from Suffolk who still lives in the city to lead its Eastern Region.


Toni Noreika is one of three regional foresters in Virginia and is responsible for the department’s operations in the eastern part of Virginia, which contains 30 localities.

“I’m pretty happy about it,” she said, of her new position. “It’s a big step, and there’s a lot of stuff to learn, but I have good people that work with me, and I rely on them, and I rely on the people in the field to help me out.”

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Noreika, who has worked for the forestry department for 26 years, is the first woman to be named to regional forester by the VDF. But she said she doesn’t think gender is an issue in her line of work, which is a predominantly male field.

“I’ve worked here a long time, and I don’t see any specific gender issues,” she said. “It’s special that I am the first woman in position, but I hope I was chosen because it’s a good choice.”

Noreika moved to Virginia after she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Penn State University. She became what’s known as a county forester for the forestry department in Suffolk.

“As a country forester, I helped private landowners to manage their forest land,” she said. “I helped to provide direct services to the landowners.”

But when she became assistant regional forester, her job duties shifted drastically, she said.

“My responsibility moved from helping landowners manage their forest to helping our employees,” Noreika said. “I moved from managing forest to managing people.”

Compared to her other positions, Noreika said, her new role will be based more on leadership.

“I’ve stepped into more of a leadership role where myself and my peers — now our job is to look into the future and figure out where we’re going and how to get there,” she said.

Along with managing the VDF budget for her region, Noreika said, it’s her responsibility “to give a vision to the rest of the agency as to how we can better care for the resources the forests give here.”

Her first goal in her new role is to visit all of the offices in her region to get a feel for their needs.

“One of my first tasks is to try to get out to everyone’s office to find out what they need and what they think and get some of their feelings on things,” she said.