SWD Black History Month Spotlight: Cheryl Partee

Cheryl Partee, Chief, Business Resource Division and Chief Financial Officer for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Cheryl Partee, Chief, Business Resource Division and Chief Financial Officer for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cheryl Partee is the chief of the Business Resource Division and Chief Financial Officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Southwestern Division. The Business Resources Division is responsible for the direction and control of financial, manpower and other resources. It involves budgeting, finance and accounting, force development, management engineering and operations research. The focus is on the wise and legal acquisition, allocation, accountability and use of money, plant and people resources.

Partee’s previous position was as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington D.C. She was responsible for the headquarters staff operations and policies associated with a $45 billion construction and service enterprise with more than 34,000 employees across the world. Prior to this role, she was the Budget Officer for the Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division in Dallas, responsible for a multi-year/multi-million dollar budget that serviced the Division’s diverse civil and military funding requirements. On her off time she enjoys spending time with her family, home improvement projects and mentoring.

Partee, a 10 year USACE team member shared some of her thoughts on her career, Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and Black History.

Q. Who or what inspired you to choose your career field?

A. Ever since I was a child, I have always had an affinity for numbers. I used to have a photographic memory, which was helpful in math and science, my best subjects in school. In high school, I was inspired by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The work he did with the economy and Interest rates truly fascinated me; my dream was to work for Alan Greenspan. I have had a very rewarding government career in the Resource Management community, but ironically, my daughter is the one working for the Federal Reserve.

Q. What advice would you share with teenagers about choosing a STEM related or government service career?

A. I have mentored young students for many years and the most important thing I share with them is to follow their passion. You have to know what wakes you up in the morning; set goals and chart a path to achieve those goals. A STEM education is the cornerstone of any career; you will be hard pressed to pursue any career that STEM does not touch in some way. Government service on the other hand is about passion for what you do. I truly believe in government service and it is not about the pay because a government salary cannot always compete with the private sector, but the work it so very rewarding. Just knowing you can contribute to our Nation and its infrastructure in some way is rewarding in itself. The main thing is to not let anything stand in your way of dreams. What has worked for me is getting to the point where you can be “comfortable with the uncomfortable.” A STEM related or government service career is a great way to get there.

Q. What has been your most memorable USACE project or program?

A. Participating in USACE Diversity Outreach programs, like the Women of Color and Black Engineer of the Year conferences. My work with these two events over the past eight years is so rewarding because we promote STEM to 3,000-4,000 students through public and price sector organizations. It is an opportunity to reach one, teach one!

Q. The African American/Black History Month theme this year is Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories, is there a site or event in AA/BH that holds a special memory or meaning to you?

A. Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama. I was in the city for the planning of the 50 year memorial celebration and got to walk on the bridge. This site is prominent in African American/Black History Month history as the march from Selma to Montgomery that began at that bridge and resulted in what is known throughout history as “Bloody Sunday,”, was the lynchpin for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.