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Dolling Serves Final Shift With Corps Of Engineers
Three-Plus Decades
Lisa Dolling and husband Fred Dolling are pictured with their puppy and prized camel. On the Dolling ranch they adore keeping all sorts of animals including their Zonkey, which is a half zebra and half donkey. Lisa recently retired from a nearly 35-year career with the Corps of Engineers in Knights Ferry and hopes to spend more time on the ranch. Photo Contributed

Knights Ferry resident Lisa Dolling finalized her retirement after working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for almost 35 years. She has worked for a total of 50 years of her life altogether, starting at age 12, with her first job helping her aunt in the kitchen at the Oakdale Livestock Auction.

From then on she continued to work at jobs such as a tour guide at the Hershey’s factory, scooping ice cream at Thrifty’s, and working at the Golden Corral. Soon after those, she found her calling at the Army Corps, where she would settle in for over three decades, enjoying a lengthy tenure in Knights Ferry.

While she was at the Army Corps, Dolling had multiple responsibilities and duties. She ran the visitors center, taking care of all the guests that came in while answering any questions in person or over the phone. She also handled a variety of paperwork and took charge of setting up picnics for special use, and camping sites.

“I did camping reservations and picnic reservations for years,” Dolling explained. “It was just this last year that switched to the National Reservation System.”

Along with those duties, she also served as a mentor to many; some people that started with her training as student assistants now serve as park managers, another is a wildlife biologist, still another trainee went on to being the head of contracting in Sacramento with the Army Corps.

Dolling was in charge of the school groups that would pass through every year as well; thousands and thousands of kids have come and gone through the visitor’s center. Especially during the trips many area elementary schools would take during the salmon run, Dolling would run the projector room where the classes watched films on the salmon and assisted in any questions or comments the kids had while walking through the museum.

“When I first started at that job all I had was a telephone, a copy machine, and a typewriter,” Dolling remembered.

She began that job on July 6, 1987, seeing many changes from that day to retirement.

Her main influence and role model for the job, she added, was Jim Sandner, the previous park manager. He trained her through all her steps in becoming who she is today.

Having originally gone to school and getting her degree in Liberal Studies with an English concentration at Stan State, Dolling originally had thoughts of becoming a special resource teacher. She did some substitute teaching but a chance meeting with a former Army Corps employee while at her ice cream scooping job changed her trajectory.

“I am from Knights Ferry, I wondered if that would be a nice place to work as well. You are out in nature and you’re close to home and everyone is usually happy there,” Dolling explained of getting interested in that opportunity.

She went through the procedures and a successful probationary period to earn her post. Dolling also thanked her park co-worker and lifelong friend Heather Wright, who she said supported her in every way possible and has been her biggest ally in friendship and her career.

Dolling is also heavily involved with many events that Knights Ferry hosts such as the Peddler’s Faire, car shows, the Civil War reenactment; immersed not only in her job but also her community.

“Every day was a new adventure, you never know what is going to come in the door and what is going to happen,” Dolling stated of her time with the Army Corps.

Her choice of retirement now was not based on age; she wanted more time with her husband and more time for her side projects. Husband Fred retired five years ago, and she felt the time was right for her to join him.

A year ago Dolling put in her notice for retirement knowing that the job was a great career, but it was time to retire and enjoy doing her own stuff and having more time to spend with family and friends.

“I knew it would hit me, I knew once I didn’t have to wake up to that alarm I would know and fully believe that I am now retired,” Dolling explained of her first official day in retirement. “I just slept in a little bit and I thought, you know what? Freedom … and I just feel really happy.”

Dolling now plans to put a lot of her time into her ranch, full of all sorts of animals, and focus on several side projects. Through the years, she said her main support circle has included her mom, dad, and her husband Fred. Her parents helped her get through school and get through life itself.

“They really didn’t care what I did as long as I found what I wanted to do and they would support me with whatever it was,” Dolling said.

Besides Knights Ferry, Dolling made her way into the community of Oakdale as well. She was president of the Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance, where she would work at the animal shelter and help find homes for those animals. Soon after, she began to also volunteer for the Astro Foundation, where in total she has fostered over a hundred kittens.

She is happily excited for retirement but said she will cherish all the memories that were made during her career. She leaves her workplace behind, but is beginning a new adventure. 

On her final day before her adventure of retirement began, longtime Knights Ferry Corps of Engineers staffer Lisa Dolling was showered with flowers and balloons and cards to give her a heartfelt farewell. Photo Contributed