Amy Blizzard brings a vast array of experience, education and a lifelong career in planning as the community planner at the Fort Jackson Army Garrison outside Columbia. At an Army base that trains over 50 percent of incoming recruits and over 60 percent of incoming female recruits, Blizzard could not be prouder of what she does.
Born in Miami, Blizzard found herself moving around the world. Her father worked in telecommunications during the early days of long-distance calling and computer chips. Their travels took her to New York, Georgia, Australia and all over the South Pacific.
Her family finally settled in Greenville, North Carolina, where she finished high school before heading to Eastern Carolina University. Blizzard received a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning and, in 1999, returned to get her Ph.D.
From a young age, Blizzard always had a passion for architecture and city planning. Initially, she was eyeing a degree in either language or art history, but it wasn’t until looking through a college catalog that the school’s planning degree caught her eye.
“I have always enjoyed architecture, history and how cities are designed, even from an early age,” Blizzard said. “So, pursuing a planning degree was a perfect marriage of everything I liked: preserving historic buildings, integrating modern design, and even the sci-fi element of planning cities so far into the future.”
Blizzard’s first job was as a redevelopment director and building inspector. Since then, she’s been a consultant, territory planner, grant manager and project manager over her 30-year career. In addition to these roles, Blizzard worked as a part-time radio DJ on National Public Radio for six years.
“When I was in graduate school, I was always a big supporter of NPR, so I’d volunteer at their fundraisers,” Blizzard said. “I was talking with the person who was the station manager at the time, and he said, ‘Do you want to go on air?’ I thought, sure, this should be fun. Being a DJ was so fun and rewarding because it can teach you timing and how to multitask.”
After living the life of a local celebrity, Blizzard hung up her headphones and returned to what she truly loved, community planning. Since she had the privilege to travel around the world and live in different places as a child, she wanted to give her kids the same life-changing experience.
In 2007, she took a risk and applied for a position as a territorial planner for the American Samoa Department of Commerce. What was supposed to be two years, turned into ten.
“We decided to take a chance and go out to American Samoa. It gave my kids an experience I couldn’t replicate in eastern North Carolina,” said Blizzard. “I had the opportunity after a tsunami in 2009 to work for the Department of Education, helping rebuild schools there. The people were wonderful, and we loved it.”
When her family returned stateside, it only took her a couple of years to find her way to Fort Jackson.
“Everything I did up to this point prepared me for my current job at Fort Jackson. The job has a steep learning curve, so I was glad to have the tools and experience to jump in and try new things,” Blizzard said.
As the community planner for Fort Jackson, Blizzard has her hands full with numerous projects. She plays a significant role in seeing projects through to completion, whether it’s a basic training complex, dining facility or reception battalion. To do this, she relies on the critical partner responsible for construction at Fort Jackson: the US Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District.
“My experience working with the Corps of Engineers has been fantastic,” Blizzard said. “The Corps has a great diversity of talent in engineering, architecture, and construction management. They do things on such a larger scale, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them.”
Overseeing plans for a 53,000-acre, 100-year-old Army base that supports over 45,000 soldiers every year comes with many challenges. According to Blizzard, every week, when she sees a new group of soldiers graduating, followed by another set just arriving, it makes it all worthwhile.
“Above all, I’m very honored to be here,” said Blizzard. “Every time I come through the gate, the guards say, ‘Welcome to Fort Jackson. Victory starts here.’ And it just makes you smile.”
A lifelong journey around the world led Amy Blizzard to South Carolina. Every day she enjoys coming to work and can’t be more excited or humbled about what she does. She shared two pieces of advice that she uses every day: always tell the truth and never lose your sense of humor. So far, they’ve led her to success.