News | April 5, 2021

Leadership Spotlight: Kathy Atkins-Nuñez

DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs

Kathy Atkins-Nuñez

Kathy stands near a sign with two dogs
Kathy Atkins-Nuñez
Kathy Atkins-Nuñez is the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Mid-America regional director. She has been with the agency for 37 years and enjoys camping in her travel trailer.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 210331-D-D0441-500
DLA Disposition Services Mid-America Region Director 
Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston, Texas


Describe your job in a sentence or two. I am the Disposition Services Mid-America Regional Director. My staff and I are privileged to support the skilled leaders and their personnel that provide outstanding service to military, federal, state and other customers, located around Disposition Services sites and field offices from North Dakota down to Texas.

How long have you worked for the federal government including military service? 37 years, all with DLA Disposition Services

What is your favorite thing about your line of work? Diversity of work. We are in the reverse logistics business and the provider of choice to properly dispose of just about everything that the Defense Department procures. Although there are some exceptions, we have received everything from live animals and tanks to pens and desks. Our responsibility is to ensure whatever we receive is properly dispositioned, to ensure public safety and national security interests stay intact.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess? Integrity, as I believe that attribute is the cornerstone for other important attributes and determines how someone leads.

What is your leadership philosophy and how does that tie into your line of work? Be a servant leader. It is my job to serve those whom I’ve been entrusted to lead and remove roadblocks that prevent my leaders and their personnel to do their job safely and successfully.

How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you? Being a servant leader helps build trust with those you serve, which in turns creates better relationships, better teams, better cultures and better outcomes. Throughout my career, I’ve considered it my job to support those I work for and with. Supporting and making others successful is the foundation of being successful yourself.

Can you share a story when you realized your efforts were making a difference? I have a couple but will share one that always makes me smile, when I think about it. This is going to sound corny but when I departed a position years ago all the personnel chipped in to get two pigs roasted for my going away potluck. I was told that was a first, for any leader they’ve had, and they wanted me to know they appreciated my time there. I was there only 18 months and that gesture made me realize that my efforts had made a difference.

Tell us how you approach change. I consider “change” to be happening every day but for major changes, I approach it cautiously as I know that it can create a lot of angst for people. We must be sure to provide the “why” behind any major change and to communicate it early and often.

What keeps you motivated. People and knowing that I made a positive difference, based on something I did, something I influenced or a decision I made.

What do you look for when evaluating top talent? Honesty and someone who exhibits self-awareness enough to realize they must change and actually do, to become a better person, leader, worker, etc… A lot of people claim they are self-aware but don’t change. To me, that is an indication of their morals, values and beliefs system. Morals, values and beliefs are much harder to change, in oneself, because that is who you are. If they can’t change themselves, there is little chance that you can make them change, once hired. Also, top talent should be avid learners.

What do you believe is your biggest accomplishment and why? Personally, having an awesome and amazing son. The why is self-explanatory. Professionally, knowing I’ve influenced some individuals to pursue or accomplish more, in either their personal or professional life because seeing others succeed and knowing that you played a small part is very rewarding.

What are your best practices for achieving goals or accomplishing tasks? Empowering your leaders and personnel to make decisions they are entrusted to make and knowing which subject matter expert to go to, if I don’t have the answer.

What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?  Improving organizational culture and climate while meeting mission requirements.

Why is networking to build professional relationships so important in achieving success? Because you can’t do it alone and in a vacuum. If anyone aspires be a leader or move up, in the organization, it benefits them to become “known.” Establishing relationships in and outside of your organization helps their visibility and makes them more marketable, if they should aspire to pursue an upward career path.   

What mistakes have you seen individuals make that prevent them from being successful? Being fixated on being part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.

Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your directorate? I was a referee in basketball, volleyball and softball for 17 years.

What was your first job? Waitress at Denny’s, during the graveyard shift. It gave me a good appreciation of standardized procedures. I still use the video training I got there on how to take ice out of the ice bin and other stuff, as an example of training needed to orient new employees on safe work practices.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A Veterinarian. I love animals but I’m glad that I never became one. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the bad stuff, death, abuse, etc…

What are your hobbies? Camping in our travel trailer.

Employee and leadership spotlight regularly features outstanding personnel from throughout the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services and other DLA organizations located at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. Organizational directors may submit feature request to DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs.