Jamie McLeod-Skinner was born in Wisconsin, and spent several years in Tanzania where her mother was a teacher. Her family moved to southern Oregon where Jamie attended high school. In fact, she still holds the 800m track record at Ashland High. McLeod-Skinner holds degrees in both Civil Engineering and Regional Planning with a focus on water system design and watershed management. She worked for a short time in the private sector before leaving for war-torn Bosnia to work for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). In Bosnia and Kosovo, she co-managed water and sanitation projects for schools and health facilities in 25 rural communities. She coordinated with military personnel, local government officials, and nongovernmental organizations to help secure the peace. Her projects were completed on time and under budget with a 100 percent safety rating despite the extreme conditions and political discord.

She continued her work in the U.S. as a Regional Director for the International Rescue Committee, helping refugees achieve self-sufficiency. She then went to work as a Senior City Planner in Sunnyvale, CA negotiating city planning processes, developing a citywide solar plan, reviewing storm water management plans, and providing over-sight of environmental impact reports for major development projects. She then took on a more challenging position as Environmental Planner for a regional water district, serving 2 million people in 15 cities. In that role, McLeod-Skinner wrote environmental impact reports and ensured compliance for water quality and supply, flood protection, and stream stewardship. She developed climate change adaptation strategies, resource management, and impact mitigation plans.

In 2004 the citizens of Santa Clara, CA elected McLeod-Skinner to their city council for two back-to-back terms. As a city council member, McLeod-Skinner developed a reputation for being ethical, fiscally responsible, and socially progressive. She served on policy boards to better manage water resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create housing solutions, and promote a welcoming and safe community. She co-founded a public-private partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while streamlining red-tape for housing development.

A desire to better understand legal proceedings in water and environmental issues led McLeod-Skinner to the University of Oregon, to earn a Juris Doctorate in environmental and natural resources law. She then served as a law clerk for the US Army Corps of Engineers, (Northwestern Division), the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, and the Klamath County Circuit Court, assisting with the Klamath Basin water rights case. She was then a city administrator in southern Oregon where she developed a reputation for acting with integrity and honoring fiduciary responsibilities, despite intense political pressure.