Miles Johnson a resource manager at the Little Rock District’s, Russellville Site Office will be retiring on April 30 with more than 38 years with the Corps of Engineers.
Position: Resource Manager, Russellville Site Office
Years with SWL: 38+
Hometown: Hamilton, Ohio
Education: BS, Wildlife Management
Hobbies: Bird watching, working on old vehicles, landscaping, woodworking/carpentry, back country traveling.
When I first came to work in Jan. 1978, four rangers shared a single rotary dial telephone that swiveled between us on an accordion arm. Drafting a disposition form was a rare treat, accomplished by only the most senior staff. Fax machines came along enabling electronic queries with the reasonable expectation of same day responses.
What can I say about modern improvements? You never get away from the job unless a server or cell tower goes down. If you lose internet connectivity, you’re out of business. Field staffs have exceptional mapping tools at their disposal with a click of a button. Early in my career, we relied on Real Estate Segment maps and quad sheets. They don’t begin to compare to the mapping technology we have today. ArcView technology resolves lots of complaints and misunderstandings with a simple aerial map highlighting ownership and encroachments.
What positions have you held in the district?
My responsibilities have primarily been in recreation and resource management as a ranger, park manager and now as resource manager. As a Natural Resource Management guy, I’ve had the unusual opportunity to serve Russellville as Chief Navigation Maintenance on two occasions totaling eight months; worked in the Ozark Power House for five months; served as acting Russellville Operations Project Manager for more than two years; served as the team leader following 9/11 on the Risk Assessment for Dams where SWL assembled an interdisciplinary engineering team to evaluate the security risks/remediation for every SWL facility. My final detail was to Pine Bluff as acting site manager. It was one of the most enjoyable jobs of my career due to the friendly, outgoing, supportive staff. I genuinely enjoyed every day on the job.
What was your favorite job position and why?
I think the GS-11 Park Manager was the most enjoyable because it involved working with people every day to accomplish things that were desired by the public. It required teamwork which led to seeing plans come to fruition and working with the public ultimately effecting positive change.
What are your plans in retirement?
My wife’s goal is to make our home a “grandkid magnet”. Her role is inspiration, mine perspiration. She’s done very well so far, but I’ve got numerous half-finished jobs that bug me and I don’t like unfinished business and unfortunately her inspiration outpaces me. I plan to step-up my involvement in the Gideon Ministry, as well as continue working as a youth leader in my church. I hope to join friends in the Nail Benders, a Christian men’s group who support churches with voluntary construction and labor services. I also plan to travel to the western states spending adequate time to “see” the country. I’ve purchased National Park Service Passport Books for my grandchildren hoping to help them build memories of our travels that they might treasure as they grow. Finally, in my spare time I’ve got a 1979 Jeep CJ5 and a yard that needs lots of attention. I’ve got to figure some way to block HGTV to avoid resource drains on my plans.
What will you miss the most about working with the Corps of Engineers?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ll miss the people, co-workers and the public alike. I’m convinced the truly important investments we make are not in things or accomplishments, but rather in the people we are privileged to work with and serve.
What do you do to instill your veteran knowledge in new rangers?
I consider myself a mentor and I try to get folks to look beyond the moment and imagine the promise of the future with the realization that people are most important, things much less so. I try to get them to understand that their goals will change. And while they may be satisfied with current circumstances, they need to prepare for the future. Interests and life situations change, as do we.
What was the best part about your job?
The best part of my job involves working with people and seeing things accomplished. The way I get to know folks is by seeing a difficult task through as a team.
I recall Bona Dea Trails and the promise it showed following its construction in 1980. The trail was a result of Joel Callaway and Dale Lassiter’s collaboration to support community interest. Upon completion it was a barren construction site, portions of which locals referred to as the Desert, due to lack of shade. Our vision was a closed canopy covering the trail from shoulder to shoulder affording shade for all users. That vision for the park has come to fruition. On any given day, you’ll see joggers, walkers, babies in strollers, children on bikes with training wheels and adults on mountain bikes all enjoying complete shade of a closed canopy trail.
What has been your favorite project you have worked on?
I really enjoyed my work on construction projects in Iraq. Work began with about 60 folks working daily, and by the time the projects were complete we ended up with 2,000 workers showing up daily. Again, the importance was the people, whom I engaged daily.
What ways have your found to balance your home life with the busy schedule you have at work?
I have a tremendously supportive wife! She has supported deployments, details, developmental assignments and calls at odd hours throughout my career without complaint, all the while holding down the home front and managing her own developing career. I have chosen to stay local to support my wife’s career and determined to provide a stable home for my three sons. I sought a deployment to Iraq to demonstrate our individual responsibility to my sons. I had them join me while I was at USACE Headquarters on a five month detail so they could experience our Nation’s Capital. I had my wife and younger sons join me in Louisiana at the Emergency Field Office where I worked as a Debris Resident Engineer to celebrate Thanksgiving during the Rita/Katrina Recovery to expose them to the hardships endured by others as well as our agency’s support.
Is there anything you would like to say to the other district employees?
Take time to be kind, intentionally. Take time to do something intentionally to lift another’s spirits. Listen– We live by deadlines, suspense’s, spreadsheets, budgets, and meetings, and we need to take time out to listen and look. Notice your co-workers. It sounds corny, but I think it’s important to take time for people and really communicate. We engage in business communication all the time, but I don’t think we’re very good at effective communication.