During nearly 20 years of pursuing careers and raising a family, Craig and Patty Acomb have maintained the strong commitment to public service they formed during their Corps service in the 1990s. Though they did not meet in the Corps, their service overlapped at several points and they were eventually married in the company of many Corps members at Itasca State Park, following an intense month working together on recovery efforts after the 1997 Red River flood.
Craig first joined the Corps as the seasonal Youth in Natural Resources program coordinator in 1992 (when the Corps was MCC and a program of the DNR), overseeing summer youth crews based at Fort Snelling State Park. He became Northwest District regional manager in 1994, then MCC executive director in 1997. Craig was instrumental in helping MCC transition from a state program to a nonprofit in 2003 and subsequently served on the board of directors for two terms.
In 1996, Patty joined the Corps as a crew leader at Itasca State Park. She became Northwest District assistant regional manager in 1998 and “retired” from the Corps when their first son was born the following year.
The Acombs both worked on a variety of projects, including building all of the Adirondack-style log shelters that still exist at upper Mississippi River canoe landings, from trees they cut locally. During their tenure, MCC became integrated in the state emergency response system; crew members began responding to floods and tornados and made up one-third of the DNR’s wildland firefighting resources.
Confidence-building experiences, such as running a chainsaw and fighting fires, shaped the lives of both Craig and Patty as they have forged careers, raised children and continued service. Craig has led public health emergencies, including the state's H1N1 pandemic flu response. After a career in health that included serving as Assistant Commissioner of Health for the State of Minnesota, Craig is now chief operating officer of a nationally-recognized health improvement organization. Patty’s career has included raising their two boys and working as a naturalist in the public schools, and she is currently serving as an elected official on the Minnetonka City Council.
Craig and Patty agree that the most important skills learned in the Corps were working as part of a team and seeing first-hand the value of national and community service. Both maintain ― and have passed on to their children ― a strong passion for the natural environment.