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The 2017 Little Rock District Civilian of the Year award was bestowed on Joel Epperson, deputy operations project manager for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) project office, during the district’s annual Corps Day award ceremony June 21.
“I was completely shocked when my supervisor told me that I was selected for this award,” said Epperson. “It is a humbling experience to be nominated much less win such a high honor.”
Epperson started his Corps career more than 31 years ago working at Lake Dardanelle on the MKARNS. He has always believed that hard work would pay-off and did not go looking for promotions. Those promotions found him over the years.
“I never thought about my next job or promotion, but somehow things just lined-up perfect and I was selected for new opportunities at just the right time for me, my family and the Corps. My most recent move had me leaving a staff of 17 to leading a team of more than 200 people up and down the MKARNS,” said Epperson.
And according to Epperson, a native of Conway, that move came with its share of challenges and rewards.
“My current position has a lot of moving parts and a huge annual budget. My team works all shifts, 24/7, 365 days a year. Making sure we have the right people in the right places at the right time, with all the challenges of employee turnover, deployments and temporary duty assignments keeps me on my toes.
“But I find the most rewarding part of the job is the people. Hiring quality people to fill key positions and helping them learn their new job is very rewarding,” according to Epperson.
Those people working across Arkansas on the navigation system in turn help drive Epperson.
“I am inspired by our people,” said Epperson. “What they do each and every day pushes me to do better. I work hard every day to take care of our people and keep my main focus on the site offices across the [MKARNS] system so they can remain focused on their mission.”
According to the award submission, Epperson “displays professionalism and integrity in all actions, both on and off duty. In addition, Epperson has performed his supervisory duties in an exemplary manner while taking the time to mentor the next generation of leaders within the organization.”
The one main theme that recurs while talking with Epperson is family and friends. Their support has helped him reach his current position and be recognized with this award.
“I could not have accomplished half the things I have during my career without the love and support of my family,” said Epperson. “They have always stood with me and that goes for all my brothers and sisters in the [Little Rock] district. I feel like all the people I work with day in and day out are my extended family. That is a great feeling to have at work.”