Winemiller rises above disability, becomes respected senior leader
October 12, 2012
When former district Commander Col. Dave Anderson first came to Baltimore, he researched his senior leaders. He read bios on the division and office chiefs, spoke to individuals who worked with the Baltimore District and examined the chief's work. But when he met with Randy Winemiller, chief of the Real Property Service Field Office (RSFO), there were some surprises Anderson did not expect.
"When we had our first meeting he sat down in front of me, paused for a moment and said, 'Randy, in all of my research about you, not one person said you were in a wheelchair,'" Winemiller said. "It was the biggest compliment anyone could make."
Born and raised in Stewartstown, Pa., Winemiller is a self-proclaimed "farm boy." In high school, he played basketball and was a baseball standout, earning a spot on the varsity team his freshman year as shortstop.
"I pretty much played basketball to stay in shape for baseball," Winemiller said. "I love everything about the sport."
But just weeks before his 17th birthday, Winemiller and four others were involved in a car accident that drove the vehicle Winemiller was riding in off the road and into two telephone poles, flipping the car, leaving Winemiller pinned beneath. As a result, Winemiller was left paralyzed.
The only one seriously injured at the time of the accident, Winemiller spent a week in a coma at York Hospital.
"I know that period of time was hard on my family, my parents," Winemiller said. "They were essentially told to come to the hospital to say their goodbyes."
It took time for Winemiller to awake from the coma, as well as to fully understand the severity of his injuries.
"I remember when I finally woke up and got my bearings, my first question was, 'When can I play baseball again?'" Winemiller said. "The doctors told me that wasn't going to be a possibility, and that's when the reality of the situation began to set in. It got very hard to deal with."
Fortunately, Winemiller was surrounded by a strong support group of family and friends who refused to let him become too disheartened.
"I had these great friends, who in all honesty could have just let me go," Winemiller said. "But they really stuck by me and helped me get back into school and the everyday activities I enjoyed before the accident."
One such activity was baseball.
"Following the accident it was too hard to go to games," Winemiller said.
It took many months, but in time, Winemiller, with the help and support of some coaches and friends, found himself back on the baseball and basketball teams, serving as statistician.
Friends weren't the only people to have an influential impact on Winemiller's recovery.
"My mom was there 100 percent of the time," Winemiller said. "She really pushed me and convinced me that what I may lack in physical movement, I more than make up for with my intelligence. She would continually say, 'You still have your mind. You still have your mind.'"
Winemiller seemed to take her encouragement to heart. Upon finishing high school, he attended Elizabethtown College and earned a degree in business administration. He would later go on to earn a Master's of Business Administration from Central Michigan University and a Master's of Public Administration Degree from Harvard University.
It was while he was at Elizabethtown College that Winemiller had his first introduction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During his junior year, he became a summer hire in the Resource Management Office.
"Jay Hershey's dad was actually my little league coach," Winemiller says with a laugh, referring to the son of Jim Hershey, who worked in Contracting Division in 1980. "Jim's the one who really introduced me to the Corps."
Now 32 years later, Winemiller is still here.
"I started out in the Baltimore District, but throughout my career I have also spent some time with the Philadelphia District and the North Atlantic Division Headquarters," Winemiller said.
In October of 2000 returned to the Baltimore District as the new chief of RSFO, responsible for overseeing 17 employees and an operating budget of $41 million.
RSFO provides real estate, design and construction services to our Nation's classified community. These services support an ever-growing list of emerging security requirements including cybersecurity and homeland security, all of which engage sensitive information, serve the warfighter, and ultimately, protect the Nation.
Under Winemiller's leadership, RSFO has grown to more than 120 employees and more than $1 billion of work per year throughout the country, from Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado, Texas and Georgia.
But it isn't the dollars or the scale of projects that's really important to Winemiller. It's the people.
"I believe in surrounding yourself with the best people possible, and I believe we have them in our office," Winemiller said. "I hope that I can nurture a community of servant leadership, that leaders are there for their staff, and vice versa. We are one team, serving a critical mission that directly serves our warfighter. It doesn't get any better than that."