Home Is Where the Heart Is

By Rodger Nichols

Tiffany and her family pose at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. The family attended many games when they lived nearby.

1 of Northern Wasco County PUD’s newest employees has a familiar last name. Tiffany Gardipee started December 4 as part of the corporate services department, specializing as a payroll clerk.

Her name is familiar because her husband, Erik, joined the PUD in 2020 as a lineworker apprentice.

The couple have been married 18 years. Both grew up in The Dalles. Tiffany says her father, Dan Hunt, who retired from the Oregon State Police after 27 years in The Dalles, was indirectly responsible for the 2 of them getting together.

“I was the youngest of 3 kids, and maybe a little bit spoiled,” Tiffany says. “He taught me how to drive the boat and how to drive the big truck while towing it.

“My senior year, right after graduation, a group of my girlfriends and I were up at the John Day River. We came back to the dock, and there was a group of guys. Erik was one of them. He asked if I would pull him on his wakeboard and I said, ‘Sure, hop on.’ And that’s how we met.”

After working at Big Jim’s Drive-In through high school, Tiffany’s first job out of high school was at a local bank. She started as a teller and worked her way up into a management position.

“Erik joined the Navy, and I eventually moved to San Diego where he was stationed,” Tiffany says. “From there, we moved to Everett, Washington. After finding out our family was growing from 2 to 3, he got transferred to Hickam/Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, where both of my boys were born.”

Tiffany and Erik left Hawaii for Panama City, Florida, with a toddler and a newborn. After a stint in Florida, the family ended up back in San Diego. Erik later retired as a chief petty officer.

“I have loved serving the communities we have called home throughout our time in Navy,” Tiffany says. “I was able to be involved in assisting our military communities in San Diego with weekly food donations and working with the San Diego Food Bank through the Murphy Canyon Bread Ministry.”

Originally, Erik was an aircraft mechanic but later became a diver. As he neared 20 years of service, he took advantage of a program called Skillbridge, which places service members nearing retirement with an employer for 6 months at no cost to the employer. Erik landed a spot with Northern Wasco County PUD and has now been with the utility for more than 3 years.

“Both of us were happy to come home from San Diego to The Dalles, with our families and friends,” Tiffany says. “It’s where our roots are, and we wanted to get some roots in the ground for our boys.”

When they lived in San Diego, the family had season passes to SeaWorld and visited constantly.

“I won’t say we were there every day,” Tiffany says. “But we were there often enough that I could have narrated the dolphin show.”

Coming home meant living near her family, including her mother, Marty Hunt.

“My peers always referred to her as the playground teacher they were afraid of,” Tiffany says with a laugh.

Soon after returning to The Dalles, Tiffany got a job with the Department of Agriculture at the local farm service agency.

“I worked there for about 3 years, helping local ag producers,” she says. “But when a good opportunity arose with the PUD, I took it.”

Tiffany says the PUD is switching to a new accounting program, which includes a new payroll module. The finance and human resources department staff members are learning the system together.

“It’s a very nice place to work,” Tiffany says. “Everyone is very supportive.”

She is kept busy with family activities when not running the payroll numbers at the PUD.

“We have 2 very busy boys,” she says. “David is 13, and Logan is 10. David is involved in baseball and is on the travel team. We love to camp, so we have the opportunity to go a lot of places and take the camper and make it a camping trip out of the busy schedule.”

Tiffany says she loves to crochet in her rare free time. She has also been involved with local baseball and is going on her third year as a safety officer for The Dalles Little League.

Then there is the dirt biking. “All 3 of my boys—my 2 children and my husband—have dirt bikes and love to use them,” Tiffany says. “I have a quad, and we used to love taking them on the Otay Desert, east of San Diego. “While all of that was nice, it’s good to be home.”