SAN ANTONIO - He’s an engineer and has always had a passion for math and science and at the same time is a history buff, with amazing recall of dates, events and figures.
He’s a one-time college DJ who still today peppers his conversations on other topics with pertinent musical references to people like drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Joe Walsh and even folk singer Arlo Guthrie.
He’s a fan of science fiction, particularly the series “The Expanse” by James Corey because he loves the insights into human nature that he’s gleaned from these stories set in other worlds.
He’s a five-time champion on the game show “Jeopardy!” (when they limited champions to only five victories) who advanced in 1998 to the semi-finals in the highly competitive Tournament of Champions and in part credits the adrenaline of competition for his success.
And, after 36 years of public service, including 19 at U.S. Army Environmental Command, Andrew Maly is retiring in 2021 after a long and successful career.
To call Maly’s interests and knowledge base broad is to vastly understate things.
“I’ve been blessed to have a mind like a sponge, to be able to acquire and store knowledge. I have a memory whereby I can hear things once, and know it,” he said. “I don’t forget a lot of stuff, have the ability to recall things and the ability to pay attention and notice. I’ve been able to use that to be useful to other people, to be a resource. And if I don’t know the answer, I will probably know who does and help you get there.”
Maly has made it a habit to use his learning skills and style to emulate successful leaders he’s worked with -- applying the lessons he’s picked up to his own interactions.
“I feel I’ve been lucky, and in particular had three excellent bosses who really stood out for me: Dr. Charles Stagg, Col. Larry Gilman and Bill Fifty,” he said, noting these leaders all had some common traits. “They were excellent teachers, particularly Stagg and Gilman, and all were mentors who gave very clear expectations, but they also trusted the individuals to get the job done. And I credit Bill Fifty for giving me the freedom to learn and the autonomy to get things done. He also got me thinking in ways that I hadn’t previously considered.”
Maly also has developed his own analogy for what it takes to be successful in complex roles that he has served in throughout his career, and with the challenges found in the U.S. Army Environmental Command’s role in dealing with environmental projects, issues, regulations and more.
“I call it being the fire brigade, running from crisis to crisis, but knowing which is the most important, which requires the most attention, which fires can burn a little, and which need to be put out right now,” he said.
Maly served in Desert Storm, in the 7th Engineer Brigade as a combat engineer – the same brigade his uncle had served in during World War II -- prior to embarking on a civil service career centered on public works and environmental project management.
Along the way, Maly also had a star-turn on the game show Jeopardy!
Maly has a detailed recollection of the Jeopardy! experience, and says it was a life-changing event for him. As he talks, he points to one memory from the popular game show that he says stands out and speaks to how he applies his broad base of knowledge and deductive reasoning to problem solving. In this case, it was a final answer in a close contest. To win, Maly had to bet all he had. And lucky for him, it paid off.
When asked about a notable memory from his long career, Maly points to a specific project at the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, “I feel that is a model for a re-use and restoration project – and it was a really fun project because it was a great team. Everybody had the mindset of knowing what their objective was, and we just executed it.”
“It was very clear what we were trying to do, we very rarely got off track, and we made a real difference,” he said. “That project received the very first EPA award for federal property re-use.”
Now that he has planned retirement, Maly said he and his wife are looking to do some travelling when they are able, and they look forward to spending more time with their two children, a son and a daughter. And he already has bike rides planned with colleagues here in San Antonio, as well as hikes and other outdoor activities on the horizon.
“I’m going to miss the people,” he said of his work colleagues. I’ve been blessed to have gotten to work on a lot of great projects with a lot of great people.”