LOS ANGELES--The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District inducted two retired employees into its Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees in a ceremony at the District headquarters in Los Angeles March 23.

Mary Spencer, former Small Business Program manager, the first retiree to be recognized, served as an advocate and mentor for hundreds of small businesses during her ten years with the District. In 2014, Spencer was named the Corps' Small Business Program Manager of the Year. Her federal service totaled 44 years.

In introducing Spencer, Contracting Division Chief Danny Carrasco lauded her for her efforts in increasing the District's small business percentages.

"She helped build a lot of our program, large business and small business," said Carrasco. "She was committed to the organization, making sure we got what we needed."

Gibbs acknowledged Spencer's achievements before reading the award citation.

"She always had every single small business's best interests at heart; she worked with them closely," he said.

In her remarks, Spencer reaffirmed her commitment to the small business program of the Corps. She was particularly helpful in assisting women-owned and veteran-owned small businesses and endeavored to maximize their opportunities to do Corps work.

"I'm an advocate for the small business community and this office supported them to increase our goals and achieve them," she said.

Richard Leifield, former chief of Engineering Division, the second retiree to be recognized, oversaw numerous diverse and highly complex projects that have given protection for and enhanced the quality of life for millions of citizens in Southern California, southern Nevada and Arizona. During his 37 years of service in the District, Leifield worked in a variety of engineering positions, culminating as chief in 2009. His federal service totaled 42 years.

Renee Vermeeren, acting chief of the District's Engineering Division, said Leifield was instrumental in establishing the dam and levee safety programs within the District.

"Now we've got a really strong program in these two areas," said Vermeeren. "We're working now to get our permit program going, and Rick started that. With those changes, Engineering [Division] is very strong and it's because of Rick."

Gibbs reflected on Leifield's importance to him as a commander new to the work of a Corps of Engineers district, explaining the program in a way he could understand.

"He was just a true professional that got work done," said Gibbs. "He's been vital to the success of this District."

"Working for the District was such a lucky thing for me to have done," said Leifield. "I wound up in an organization that has such an important mission that lined up so well with my personal interests."

Leifield said he was blessed to have had great people to work for and work with during his time with the District.

"It was hard and, at times, very challenging and very frustrating," said Leifield. "But how fortunate I was to be a part of that and to work here. I'll never forget that and am always very thankful when I think about it."

The induction was held in conjunction with the District's annual Retiree Recognition Day. More than two dozen retirees participated in the day's activities, which included a breakfast social, commander's update and catered lunch.

Gibbs closed the event with a few words directed to the retirees.

"As you leave today, just know that your District was recognized as a great place to work (2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey), because of the conditions that you all set while you were here, and the people that you mentored and taught," said Gibbs. "It carries on to this day, because of retirees and professionals like you that worked at a special place and time in your life."