BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Director of Contracting
Battle Creek, Michigan
Describe your job in a sentence or two. My great team and I provide global contracting support for external and internal customers, in the form of hazardous waste disposal services, operational services and supplies and public sales contracts. I also have a stellar oversight and support team that administers programs such as the Government Purchase Card, Contract Quality Reviews and Contracting Officer Representatives.
How long have you worked for the federal government including military service? 36.5 years of full-time service but if you count my part-time student years worked, 40-years.
How long have you worked for DLA Disposition Services? My entire career. I was hired as a local high school senior for part-time employment under a student program. I went to school full-time and worked 20-hours per week – first as a high school student, then as a local community college student. I also worked full-time during school vacations and summer breaks. My time was split between providing administrative support to the Public Affairs and Equal Employment Opportunities offices. Upon graduating with an associate’s degree, I took the Civil Service Test in 1984 and was hired as a clerk-stenographer in the newly established Contracting Directorate. At that time, our organization was called the Defense Property Disposal Service and the new Contracting Directorate only had five employees (we now have 83!). I eventually worked in every office in Contracting. I began in administrative positions and later did the same in technical positions after graduating from a contracting internship. I also completed my bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development in the evenings as a young working mother and subsequently progressed through the different levels of management.
Historical note: Tracy Hart became the first female Director of Contracting in January 2015.
What is your favorite thing about your line of work?Assisting the warfighter with disposal solutions, teaching and coaching others and watching them grow professionally and individually.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? “Know your worth, stand true, press on and if you feel uncomfortable in doing something new, good – you’re growing. Remember, no one can ever hold you back but yourself.” That sage advice was given to me as a young contracting officer by then DLA Disposition Services procurement attorney, the late Reba Harrington, a great friend and mentor.
- DLA Meritorious Civilian Service Award/DLA Unsung Heroes, June 2020
- DLA Disposition Services Strategic Goals Award, March 2014
- DLA Alternative Disputes Award
- DLA Disposition Services Employee of the Month (Supervisory Category), April 2011
What is your leadership philosophy and how does that tie into your line of work? My goal is to better serve our customers and my team by fostering growth and leadership.
How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you? I never purposely modeled how I lead after any style; I just did what came to me naturally and what felt right and fair from both a people and mission standpoint. As such, my style includes being adaptive, dependent upon the situation, with a focus on service.
Tell us how you approach change. I approach change with an open mind. Life is all about change, including here at work. Embracing change and working as a team to overcome any associated challenges makes us stronger and more valuable to our customers and organization. Embracing change, with an overall balance to life, keeps us resilient.
What keeps you motivated. My inner compass, my family, my team and our customers. My family’s steadfast support has made my career possible – from my late parents, siblings to my husband and son. I also am self-driven to learn new things and to lead my team to greater achievements. They deserve nothing but they best and so do our warfighters.
What do you look for when evaluating top talent? I look for someone that is the overall “best fit” in terms of competencies and culture. Someone that is a positive team player who is committed to the greater good, something bigger than him or herself.
What do you believe is your biggest accomplishment and why? Early in my career, before crossing over to management, I’d get a sense of accomplishment when I solved problems for customers via contract solutions and by developing and sharing process improvements that were adopted and used by others. As I progressed into management, my sense of accomplishment shifted to a broader scale – from a work action to people. How could I help them grow? Could I best accomplish this by providing them with formal or informal training opportunities, stretch exercises or coaching? The key is to find the right fit for both the individual, the team and the mission. It’s been rewarding being a part of the contracting directorate – we’ve come full circle from when I first started as a permanent employee in the new directorate. I appreciate the leaders before me that helped me grow and I am thankful for the team that I now lead.
What are your best practices for achieving goals or accomplishing tasks? Create a vision and share it. I also keep a visual, written reminder of both goals and tasks. I share them with the team, track progress and follow-up, when necessary. It is good to set stretch goals but be flexible and realistic.
What mistakes have you seen individuals make that prevent them from being successful? Some people have an unwillingness to take on new challenges, to learn new things and grow.
Name your favorite/recent book(s) you have read. This summer I’ve been reading strictly for pleasure – the Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon. The books present a good mix of history, travel, exciting plots and character twists. My favorite leadership book is John C. Maxwell’s, “The Right to Lead.” It’s about people who have earned the right to lead others. Because of the courage they found and the character they displayed, other people recognized their admirable qualities and felt compelled to follow them.
Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your directorate? I have an awesome team of talented professionals. We’re tenacious problem solvers. We look to find ways to help our customers by delivering top-notch, effective contracts. We continued to do that throughout COVID-19. One thing that people might not know throughout DLA is that my office doesn’t just solicit, award and administer Federal Acquisition Regulation based contracts where we pay contractors for supplies or services, we now also award and manage public sales contracts for useable and safe to sell scrap personal property. These contracts bring in revenue that, in part, decreases the Warfighter’s Service Level Bill, saving the taxpayers money. This niche contracting mission and the great folks that perform these functions were transferred to me last June under the HQ Realignment initiative. It’s been an enlightening and rewarding experience and I’m proud of how well the merger of our new team has gone.
What was your first job? My time spent as a temporary employee under the DLA Student Program.
What is your best memory of working here? I have so many wonderful memories – I can’t pick a favorite because new ones present themselves constantly. All of them though, involve teamwork and celebrating as a team.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a veterinarian or archeologist. It’s fitting that I’m a huge animal lover and I still look for interesting rocks and fossils when combing Michigan’s beaches. After working as a student aide for the federal government and witnessing first-hand the difference the workforce made in helping warfighters, my goal shifted to becoming a civil servant. I wanted to be a part of a team that made a difference, that served a higher purpose. We do! I’m lucky to be a part of the DLA organization.
Who is your hero? Like many others, my parents, who grew up during the Depression and faced many adversities throughout life but never complained. They made a better life for me and my siblings and instilled in us a strong work ethic, a belief in treating others equally and an overall love of life and nature. Second, the late Reba Harrington, an attorney in our local Office of Counsel. She was a great friend, an inspirational mentor and a trail blazer in both her professional and personal life.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? I would choose to do something I enjoy from time to time – travel to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and unwind, off-the-grid, enjoying the beautiful outdoors with my family.
What are your hobbies? Camping, fishing, gardening, cooking, nature photography, looking for rocks and fossils on the beautiful beaches of Michigan’s Great Lakes, genealogy and reading.
What is your favorite quote? My favorite is “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” by Robert Frost. Similarly, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words are among my favorite as well, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”