USACE Galveston District’s Employee Spotlight on Toniette Addison

GALVESTON, Texas (June 6, 2018) – Toniette (Toni) Addison hadn’t considered a career in engineering until her first year of college when her calculus professor noticed that she had a knack for numbers. He pulled her aside after a test to talk about the possibility of pursing a degree in Engineering.

“I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do and it wasn’t engineering” said Addison “I had been working with the public housing authority for several years, was being mentored by an executive director, and was passionate about helping the community. My degree plan at the time was specifically catered to my career goal which was to serve as the executive director for a housing authority”

That following summer, Addison met a man who was an executive director for a housing authority who just happen to hold a degree in civil engineering.

“It made me realize that I could get an engineering degree and still work in the housing authority if that’s what I still wanted to do. In a way I felt like my career chose me” said Addison “So I decided to change my major to engineering”

Her career began in 2007 as a SCEP-student career employment program with the United States Department of Agriculture- Forest Service. Her government service has brought her to places like Florida, Washington, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Georgia, and Illinois.  While serving with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), she deployed in South Korean and Louisiana.

She currently holds the Resident Engineer position at USACE Galveston. There, she’s responsible for civil works construction projects.

“In my position I am currently working on learning, evaluating and trying to improve the effectiveness of the resident office through construction contracts, operating producers, plans and specifications” said Addison “Many of the projects in GRO  are dredging and placement improvement along the GIWW and Galveston Harbor. It has been a great experience learning dredging contracts, meeting local sponsors, and the importance of the work USACE does for the local economy”

Addison has earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 2009 at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) and was recently accepted in the Auburn Construction Management program, a year-long program with USACE. In the years she has served as a civil engineer she has earned a Commander’s award for Civilian Service in 2017, Achievement medal for Civilian Service in 2017, and a Diversity and Inclusive award in 2012. In her free time she enjoys reading, singing, and spending with her Fiancé.

Little Rock District Town Hall Highlights Priorities

“In case you have not heard, our number one priority is hiring new folks,” said Col. Robert Dixon, Little Rock District commander, to a crowd of hundreds during the most recent district town hall in Little Rock.

In his discussion he covered everything from hiring actions to deployments. And a discussion is exactly what this town hall was, a back and forth discussion between him and many of the district’s 700 professionals. They asked tough questions, and he provided frank and honest answers.

Dixon started by highlighting many of the challenges the district faced in 2017 and early 2018.

“Twelve months ago we were in the middle of a flood fight,” he said. “At the end of the summer we got a three-hit surprise…Harvey, Irma and Maria. We got to spend a lot of time in Houston, Puerto Rico and Florida; and then California caught on fire.”

All toll, about 15-20 percent of our workforce deployed in support of recovery efforts across the Nation. All of this while we were still really busy back in the district. “The district is on the radar nationally as one that stepped up with support while still getting the mission accomplished back home,” Dixon added.

“I want to say a ‘Big Thank You’ to those who deployed overseas or to one of the contingencies. But just as important, thank you for those who stayed behind and got the mission done,” Dixon said.

Col. Robert Dixon highlights many of the challenges the district faced in 2017 and early 2018.

That recap of a district being pushed to extremes led to a discussion of the district’s number one priority – hiring more talented people to fill more than 90 vacancies.

“We have to put a full-court press [on hiring]. We are never going to fill all our vacancies at the rate we are going,” he said. “We are going to have to do something different. We found new authorities that we can apply and we are seeking other new authorities to apply.”

“I don’t think the workload is going to go down,” he surmised. “No matter what happens out there with disaster response, we have a responsibility here in the district to deliver the program…and we meet that, we’ll do it.”

According to Dixon, we have a hiring process, not a recruiting effort.

“To me recruiting means we go out and find people whose skills, attributes and values match ours and match the jobs we need to fill. There are a variety of authorities we can use to bring people on board,” he said.

“We need to make sure we are bringing the right folks into the staffing process. Last year we returned about 20 hiring lists and this year we are already at 30 lists returned. To me if we are getting a bad list…[it is because] we haven’t recruited the right people to apply for those jobs and made sure that they get qualified.”

According to Dixon, many of the people who come to work for the Little Rock District do so because they are from Arkansas or they have family in Arkansas. But, he adds that we have a lot to offer and the biggest incentive is the work.

“One of the biggest things we can offer is meaningful work,” he said. “We are in this because it is good honest work, it means something, and it supports the community. The [recruiting] task is going to need your help. Everybody here is a recruiter. When you tell your stories about what you do…you are recruiting. I need your ideas about how we can do this [recruiting] thing better.”

From there, Dixon moved to another major initiative in the district – Project 21. He described many of the current and future projects and programs taking place across the district.

“There is some confusion out there about Project 21. Some people think that Project 21 is just about upgrading the federal office building. That is part of Project 21, but it is just part of it,” said Dixon.

The facilities are more than just the federal office building. We’ve got facilities all over Arkansas and Southern Missouri, and all of them need to be taken care of. Our workforce deserves a good place to work. Also, a lot of the public visit our project site offices. This [facility] represents the federal government to the public and if we have taken good care of that [our facilities]…they are going to walk away thinking maybe some of my tax dollars are being spent wisely.”

Colonel Dixon concluded his discussion by answering question from the field and the audience and by wrapping up the town hall with this final thoughts.

“In case you can’t tell, I am tremendously excited. I walk around [the district] and I always see friendly faces of people doing hard work, solving tough challenges and they are excited about what they are doing…they are passionate about what they are doing. It is an amazing organization to be part of and it’s because of all of you…I really appreciate everything you do.