Women's History Month 2023 - Kristine Artman

Q & A with Kristine Artman

How long have you worked for the City? What do you do? 

I have worked for the City of Lake Oswego for 6 months. I am the Assistant Fire Chief for LOFD. As the Assistant Fire Chief to Chief Don Johnson, I oversee the Emergency Operations and Training Sections. I directly supervise the three battalion chiefs who manage and respond with the four fire crews during their 24- hour shift. I also assist with: hiring, promotional processes, training, and administrative projects as directed by Chief Johnson. 

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? What did they teach you?

My Mom, Alice Rotan, has been the biggest influence in my life. I would say her influence has helped me tremendously in both my personal and professional life. At a very early age I witnessed my Mom manage a hair salon out of the basement in our family home. Her work ethic and her ability to tirelessly bring joy and light to each person she encountered was evident as people would come for their haircuts and stay for the coffee and zucchini bread that my grandma would endlessly supply.  

My Mom did not waste time trying to fit into the mold of traditional women’s roles of the 70’s and 80’s.  She was fearless, hilarious, and refused to dwell on hardship or negativity.  The very things that embarrassed my sister and I as we grew up: her loud laugh, her lack of self-consciousness, and her unmeasured kindness, are the things I most admire her for and try to emulate today.  I would not have had the confidence to grow in such a male-dominated field and thrive through mistakes, with a strong conviction in knowing the fire service doesn’t have to look like it did for the last 100 years, had it not been for my Mom. 

Did you experience something that caused you to change your direction in life, for example, moving to a different state, going back to school, volunteering, etc.?

It’s difficult to pick one thing that changed the trajectory of my life.  But, I do think moving to Oregon after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison was a huge leap out of my comfort zone. I fell in love with the ocean and vibrant colors of the PNW. I made it through the rainy season and realized taking chances seemed to expand and increase my choices in life.  Some of my choices and endeavors failed miserably…but I’ve tried to always learn from them. Being in a new place made everything novel, which allowed me to stay curious…I think that is the key. No matter what I’m stepping towards or working at - if I can maintain a sense of curiosity, I feel more flexible, adaptable, and ultimately more satisfied whatever the result because I’m not attached to preconceived outcomes. 

What is one thing you wish more people knew about women in the workplace?

I can’t speak for all women in the workplace, but I can say that my experience in the fire service has been a long road of cultivating the confidence to speak up for myself and others when I see opportunities to point out behavior, policies, or leadership styles that make it difficult for women to succeed along with their male peers. This is a great question - and it should be asked of everyone - no matter how they identify. If we are aware of our workplace environment, and take time to understand our co-workers, we are more apt to remove obstacles for everyone making the entire organization more successful. 

Do you have advice or words of wisdom would you like to share?

Yes!  Be confident in yourself and what you bring. You are different than everyone else for a reason.  No one does you better than you do.  Stop caring so much about what others think; it’s holding you back from your own experience and success.

Do you have a woman that currently inspires you?

My sister. She is persistent and tireless in her pursuit to consistently improve. She puts the work in every day in order to learn and get better at her job. She manages a full-time supervisory position, household, and has enrolled in a master’s program. I admire her sense of humor and perspective and try to emulate the same in my daily life. 

What would you tell young women who are just starting to work? What would you like them to know?

Concentrate on learning your craft. Regardless of the obstacles in front of you - there are always steps that you can take to get better at your job which will also improve your confidence. The less you focus on reasons and excuses (whether in or out of your control) for not “Getting ahead,” the more energy you have to make sure you are ready when the opportunity to perform presents itself. 

What is one thing you know now about women and work you wish you had known earlier in your career?

There are still a disproportionate number of women and people of color in the fire service. Instead of isolating yourself from other women in the workplace, support each other. The energy, confidence, experience, and technical expertise you share with each other will catapult you forward in your career while making it exponentially more rewarding.

Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women?  

Professional inspiration is usually coming from the same place as those that inspire me in my personal life. I enjoy reading biographies of women in male-dominated professions to understand their struggles and how they overcame them.  It helps not only with inspiration, but validation. What we sometimes assume is the exhausting norm, is actually us managing obstacles unseen by a great number of the workforce. Again - not fodder for excuses…but maybe a moment of recognition and grace that you are moving forward and making progress so the women that follow you do not have to encounter the same challenges. 

What goes through your mind when you think of women who joined the workforce before you?

RESPECT. Admiration. Gratitude. Whether they know it or not, they walked a path and made it easier for me to follow. I had women firefighters to look to for support if I was confused or challenged in a way I didn’t know how to manage. They showed our fellow firefighters that it was possible for women to do the job. Even if they only changed the mind of one person, that was one less person working against me as I navigated this profession. I would not be here, and have the career I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy without the support from those women hired before me, with me, and after me.

What does Women’s History Month or International Women’s Day mean to you?

I’m conflicted. I believe it’s important to capitalize on the day and month of awareness. I hope it inspires reflection not only by those breaking down barriers, but by those who don’t see the gaps and challenges still to be overcome. I know I appreciate being asked these questions. Thank you.


Photo: Kristine playing at the beach with her dog, Lucy, a rescue Weimaraner. Not shown, but also on this adventure, was Kristine's Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Winnebago (“Winnie” for short).