Ann Garner, director of Fort Jackson's Directorate of Public Works, recently was awarded the 2018 William C. Gribble Jr. DPW Executive of the Year Award for a job well done.
The award goes to the top DPW director nominated from any IMCOM garrison worldwide.
Garner, a native of Gilbert, South Carolina and a University of South Carolina graduate, accepted the award during the annual DPW workshop in San Antonio Feb. 6.
She credited the success to her employees.
Garner is a mother of three who started working on military installations when her husband, David, enlisted in the Air Force.
Before that, she said she never thought she'd work for the military, instead picturing herself as a someday-CEO for a chemical company.
She wound up working for both the Marine Corps and the Air Force before arriving at Fort Jackson and starting her first Army position in 2015.
Garner was named DPW permanent director less than one year later.
"I've struck the sweet spot" in life, Garner said. "It's enough responsibility that gives me meaning with my work, but it's not so overwhelming that it sacrifices other parts of my life."
She admitted to being anxious about taking on the leadership role at first.
Garner had only been working at Fort Jackson for nine months as the Operations & Maintenance division chief when she was promoted to acting director in 2015.
"I liken it to my grandmother buying childhood clothes two sizes too large," Garner said, commenting that in this case, the clothes were the responsibilities of her new job. "I was self-conscious, awkward and occasionally stumbled in my oversized clothes," but she said she eventually grew into them.
"As evidenced by rapidly expanding swaths of silver in my hair, a job in DPW is no cake walk, but I recognize the value DPW brings to Fort Jackson," Garner said. "I'm committed to serving the people who support the mission every day."
She was nominated for the William C. Gribble Jr. DPW Executive of the Year Award for providing superior customer service, modernizing and advancing DPW procedures, and managing the 129 employees she oversees fairly, her nomination packet states.
Garner said the most noteworthy Fort Jackson DPW initiatives last year involved creating the Facility Manager Program and structuring the maintenance contract to incentivize preventative work on-post.
She wouldn't take credit for either, giving it all to her employees.
Despite Garner's modesty, her leadership had nothing but praise for her in their nomination memorandums.
"Ann is exceptional in every way," said Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander. "She not only comprehends, but embodies the strategic 'big picture' … I have interfaced with many civilian servants in my 28 years with the Army, but none have served with the energy, charismatic leadership and commitment of Ann."
Col. Stephen Elder, Fort Jackson's garrison commander, had his own compliments.
"As an accomplished engineering professional with outstanding technical and interpersonal skills, Ms. Garner is a rare breed," Elder said. "She's institutionalized processes where there were none before, improved work productivity, and enhanced customer satisfaction."
Garner said her secret to a job well done is "collaboration, perspiration and delegation," but attributed the win to her team and Elder's leadership, which "promotes a culture of high performance."
She said she views the award as one for the entire directorate, commenting that DPW employees are the ones who "deserve the praise, gratitude and congratulations."
DPW workers are more than just the people who "keep the lights on and toilets working;" they are the problem-solvers, innovators, and the ones who find "resourceful ways to meet (the) mission in the face of declining resources," Garner said.
"The men and women of DPW earned this award; it symbolizes the collective creativity, devotion and accomplishments of all Fort Jackson DPW (employees)," Garner added. "I'm grateful and inspired to serve with them each day and accept the Gribble award on their behalf."