"You can let things happen, make things happen, or wonder what happened." -Unknown
After 39.5 years of making things happen with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bill Stein retired as Deputy District Engineer for Programs and Project Management of the Charleston District.
While a senior studying engineering at Bucknell University, one of Stein’s professors encouraged him to apply for a position with the Baltimore District as a trainee. Stein interviewed and was offered the job before he even graduated from college.
On July 22, 1974, Stein started his civil service career as a trainee with the structural design team, but he quickly worked his way up to a structural engineer. After three years with the Baltimore District, he moved to the Savannah District where he worked on projects at Moody Air Force Base and Fort Stewart.
Stein landed in the South Atlantic Division in Atlanta, where he found, and spent 20 years working on, his passion: business process. While serving as the acting chief of the project management branch, he realized that the districts he oversaw didn’t talk to each other, much less work together. Seeing this as a flaw in the system, he started a "regional village" for districts to come together, collaborate and streamline their business practices.
"I spent six years working on this concept, but I continually received resistance and pushback from the districts," said Stein. "It was difficult to handle, but I trudged ahead because I truly believed this process would help the Corps grow."
After several attempts at a promotion at SAD, Stein threw his name in the hat for the DDPM position in the Charleston District.
"Aside from the several interviews, I had been passed over for the regional business position at SAD, which was a position I knew I would be great at, since it was what I had done for the last six years," said Stein. "But it ended up being the best thing to happen to me. If I had gotten the job, I would never have come to the Charleston District and I have loved my time here."
Since he was now the head civilian, he could take his years of research and ideas and finally put them into practice with no pushback.
It didn’t take Stein long to put his plans into action. In 2006, Stein hired Lauri Newkirk-Paggi to lead the contracting team, and in 2008 the Savannah District gave the Charleston District the construction projects at Fort Jackson; these two coinciding events led to the "perfect storm."
"Two of Lauri’s former co-workers were about to lose their jobs due to base realignment and closure," Stein said. "They were project managers for the U.S. Marine Force Reserves. So when I hired them, it brought MARFORRES on as customers. It ended up being the best thing we could have ever done. With Fort Jackson and MARFORRES as customers, we were able to go to other agencies and showcase our work. Since then we have been hired by nearly 20 other federal agencies and our workload has grown from $60 million a year and 118 employees to $260 million a year and 231 employees."
The District continued to grow due to Stein’s outreach to other agencies and soon other districts started asking him for advice, ironically, it was the same districts that pushed back in the beginning, and Stein was more than happy to help them.
"Bill has excellent foresight and the ability to strategically plan," said Lt. Col. John Litz, District Commander. "We are incredibly fortunate to have had his guidance and leadership for as long as we did."
Stein had finally accomplished what he had set out to start; it was time to retire.
"My ideas are well established within the Charleston District and are catching on in the other districts," said Stein. "My work is complete. And I am ready to spend my days on the golf course, not in meetings."
With Stein’s retirement came a vacancy to fill. A vacancy that was a perfect fit for Lisa Metheney, who has more than 20 years experience with the Corps, 14 of those with the Charleston District, as the deputy assistant chief, programs and project management for Stein. As deputy, she was able to step right into the role of DDPM without missing a beat.
"It was a tough choice with a high level of competition, but Lisa was the best fit for the District," said Litz. "It has been a very smooth transition, which is exactly what I expected."
Metheney started with the Huntington District in 1993 as a co-op student; she worked part time in the Corps planning division while obtaining her master’s in business administration from Marshall University. Upon graduation, Metheney was hired full-time as an economist by the Huntington District. After six years there she decided to head to warmer climates as an economist with the Charleston District.
During her past 20 years with the Corps, Metheney has worn a variety of different hats including project manager in the Europe District, public affairs officer in the Charleston District, and volunteered to deploy on disaster relief missions. As the deputy, Metheney took on exciting projects such as the Charleston Harbor Post 45 deepening project and several shoreline protection projects.
"I love to learn, so I took every opportunity I could to take on different positions and projects so I could learn everything there was to know about the Corps and the Corps’ process," said Metheney. "The more I learned, the more I loved working for the Corps."
And learning is exactly what Metheney has done, so much so that she is the "unofficial-expert-on-everything-related-to-the-Corps" at the Charleston District and most division chiefs ask her for input on their projects. She has also taken on the responsibility of mentoring to several District employees; she offers them career advice and guidance and always makes herself available to them.
"We are extremely lucky to have Lisa on our team," said Litz. "I know that when I am with Lisa, we can handle any situation. She will have the answer or a viable solution."
But Metheney will be the first to tell you she couldn’t have gotten where she is today without having some great mentors during her career and her list of mentors is diverse and lengthy due to all of her experiences.
"She is so eager and such a quick study, it has made mentoring her easy," said Stein. "I couldn’t be more thrilled that she is the new DDPM. She will do a fantastic job leading the District."
Happy golfing, Bill, and congratulations, Lisa!