EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: crossword addict, proponent of sleeping indoors. (Kevin Wolf/AP)

The Environmental Protection Agency might be one of conservatives’ favorite punching bags (whaddya mean, climate change?). But it just happens that that the agency’s leader, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, seems to relish a good fight. The EPA’s first African-American chief has turned in feisty performances during Capitol Hill hearings and defended greenhouse-gas rules.

She chats with the Loop about her secret addiction, her Cabinet-level movie buddies, and her un-glamorous first job as a maintenance (wo)man.

Which cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

[Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano and [HHS Secretary] Kathleen Sebelius and I are movie buffs. We recently caught Moonrise Kingdom at the AFI Theater in downtown Silver Spring. I love that theater.

What’s your favorite non-work-related web site/app/magazine?

Hands down the NYT crossword puzzle app. I am an addict and do the puzzles almost every day.

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _________.

Don’t camp. In fact, I really don’t sleep outside. People think of the head of the Environmental Protection Agency must be a naturalist but I am just a city girl who believes that fighting pollution and protecting our health is important - no matter where you live.

What’s your dream job?

I’d be the chef/owner of a perpetually hip restaurant..

What motivated you to go into public service?

It’s probably my dad. He was a mailman and delivered the mail in New Orleans when I was girl. He sometimes took me around to meet some of his customers. I loved the admiration they had for him and the pride he had in his work. Dad died when I was in high school. My office at EPA was originally the Office of the Postmaster General. When I walk past the postal seal to get to my office, I think about my dad.

Favorite TV show?

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

Samantha Bee, of course!

What subject, other than your work, do you know the most about?

I was a math geek in school.

What’s the best job you ever had?

Other than my current job, which really is the best, gas plant maintenance man. It was my first real job and it was between my freshman and sophomore years in college. NOTHING beats the first real job. I was a total rookie, worked hard doing manual labor in some of the hottest weather I can remember. But I could point to what I had accomplished at the end of the day, I had money in my pocket and the other maintenance guys (and they were ALL guys!) took great care of me and taught me the ropes.

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?


You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

Selena Gomez ...To be our EPA Youth Ambassador and expand the conversation on the environment to a whole new generation of young people who need to know why environment matters and how to take action to protect it.

Background Check is a new Loop feature in which we grill various government types about their lives on and off the clock. Please send suggestions for future subjects to intheloop@washpost.com.