No matter what your job description is, if half of your department goes on another duty assignment, you’re in for more work. It’s even harder if the original staff only has two people. That’s exactly what happened when one of the Charleston District’s cost engineering staff members deployed to Afghanistan in support of Overseas Contingency Operations, leaving Jeff Fersner to handle the entire workload by himself.
"It was a little daunting to learn I would have to do the entire job myself," said Fersner. "I was even doing another stint covering for someone else in the military construction division while they were deployed, so for four months, I was doing three jobs. I was actually relieved when I only had to do two jobs."
Fersner’s counterpart departed in April 2011 for a six month deployment, but extended to two years shortly after arriving. In that first fiscal year, Fersner was able to successfully satisfy the cost estimating requirements for more than 600 contract actions totaling more than $275 million.
As the cost engineer for the entire District, Fersner works on providing quality cost estimates for all of the District’s projects. Fersner’s job is to look at a project and estimate what it should cost to ensure the government is getting a fair value for its money by carefully scrutinizing contract proposals. The way he puts it, he’s making sure there are "no $1,000 toilet seats."
"The most difficult part of doing the job alone was that the timeframe was shortened," said Fersner. "Normally, I have more time to do estimates, but I’m doing twice the amount of estimates in the same timeframe. I still have to make sure I put out a good product that I’m proud of."
But this difficulty temporarily took a backseat, in April 2012, when Fersner was diagnosed with a serious health issue, which led to the amputation of one of his legs. The surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation time would have put most people out of commission from work for quite some time… but not Fersner. He continued to support the District by providing estimates and price analysis immediately before and after his surgery, as well as throughout his recuperation.
"I worked five hours from the hospital the day of the surgery," said Fersner. "It helped to pass the time while I was sitting around and waiting."
Fersner was counseled numerous times to not worry about work and to focus on his recovery, but that didn’t stop him. Fersner was fully committed to keeping the work flowing through the District at the rate required to keep all projects on schedule. Fersner even went as far as obtaining notes from his doctor stating that he was capable of working during his recovery.
"The work had to get done," said Fersner. "If I didn’t do it then, it was going to be there when I got back. I have a loyalty to my coworkers and clients, and it needed to get done because the entire contract process would be held up without cost engineering."
Fersner’s looking forward to having his counterpart back on the job to take some of the load off, but mostly just to be a sounding board for ideas without having to call someone at another district. He’s also ready to spend time making his famous spicy sausage balls and riding around on his boat with his wife, Mary.
"I’m just happy to be here," said Fersner. "But I’m looking forward to taking time off now that someone else can watch the deadlines."
Fersner continues to excel at his position, improving both the quality of his products and the relationship between his job and the project delivery teams he works for. His performance was recently recognized when he won the South Atlantic Division’s Outstanding Scientific/Professional Employee award. He also represented the District as a nominee for the Federal Executive Association’s Outstanding Scientific/Professional Employee of the Year category. He expands his skills to meet the evolving range of work the Charleston District does and truly leads by example showing that people can overcome any challenge.