Admin professionals are ‘glue’ that lets organization stick to priorities

By Leon RobertsMay 9, 2024

Admin professionals are ‘glue’ that lets organization stick to priorities
Virginia Bevis, administrative support assistant for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District in the Mid-Tennessee River Area Office, serves employees at Wilson, Wheeler, and Guntersville Locks in Alabama. She is seen here May 7, 2024, by the lock chamber at Wilson Lock on the Tennessee River in Florence, Alabama. (USACE Photo by Donna Roberson) (Photo Credit: Leon Roberts) VIEW ORIGINAL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 9, 2024) – Administrative professionals in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are highly respected and known as being the ‘glue’ that makes it possible for work centers and the organization to stick to priorities and stay focused on national and regional missions.

In the Nashville District, administrative assistants like Virginia Bevis at Wilson Lock, Jasmine Watson in the Integrated Project Office, and Kayleigh Griffin in the Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch, support a variety of administrative functions, which include monitoring and coordinating internal procedures, controls, production, and progress reports that support efficient operations.

They work with leaders and teammates to plan, organize, and support work for diverse activities. They develop and possess great spoken and written communication skills and are able to gain cooperation and coordinate admin support for tasks and projects.

Bevis is a seasoned administrative professional who got started with the Nashville District as a summer aid at Wilson Lock in Florence, Alabama, right after high school graduation in 1990. She then became an office automation clerk student trainee, office automation clerk, navigation assistant, and Navigation Office assistant. Along the way she earned an associate’s degree in office administration and a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Now, as the administrative support assistant for the Mid-Tennessee River Area Office serving employees at Wilson, Wheeler, and Guntersville Locks, Bevis is responsible for timekeeping, travel orders and vouchers, personnel actions, scheduling and payment for employee physicals, government cardholder purchases, and personnel or administrative related tasks.

“Working in a field area office can sometimes be challenging due to there being one admin covering three lock offices that are up to 100 miles apart,” Bevis said. “Thankfully with the technology that we have today, it allows us to get the job done despite the distance, and to successfully accomplish our mission.”

Bevis said so much has changed during her 34-year career. She explained that in the early days the work involved an old typewriter, carbon-copy forms, rotary phones, and one computer that they seldom ever used. She added that she is blessed to have the best mentors in the Nashville District, including former Tennessee River Operations Manager Jim Davis, who asked her if she needed a job while finishing high school.

“I’ve been an admin my whole career, worked in the same office; basically, I’ve grown up here,” Bevis said. I’ve worked with operations managers, lock operators, mechanics, and a few others. The people here have been so good to work with and everyone has something to contribute to make our jobs even better,” Bevis said. “I love what I do and I’m very thankful to be a part of the Mid-Tennessee River Area.”

Watson arrived in March 2024 and is new to the Nashville District and Corps of Engineers. However, her administrative career began in 2008 as a knowledge operations manager in the Air National Guard. That’s where she learned to be a secretary for all levels of leadership, to complete travel requests, maintain records, and to serve as the human resources liaison that tracked unit manning documents and helped with communications and information technology requirements. She also served full time as an administrative specialist with state government.

In the Integrated Project Office, her responsibilities include being the timekeeper, assisting with tracking training requirements, completing travel arrangements, personnel actions. She also manages records, hand receipts, clerical duties, and assists the program analyst with minor expenditures and government cardholder purchases.

“I really admire being multitalented and being able to adapt to different work arenas and provide outstanding customer service wherever I am,” Watson said. “I love what I do. I’m simply a people person. My work ethics and bubbly personality is inviting. My goal is to always to provide a safe zone and productive environment where we all can efficiently complete our parts of the mission.”
Admin professionals are ‘glue’ that lets organization stick to priorities
Jasmine Watson, administrative professional in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Integrated Project Office, provides an equipment inventory update May 7, 2024, with Elizabeth Burks, IPO chief, at the office in Nashville, Tennessee. (USACE Photo by Leon Roberts) (Photo Credit: Leon Roberts) VIEW ORIGINAL

With more than 15 years of experience as an administrative assistant, Watson said technology continues to change the way business is conducted, but basic clerical duties and concepts remain on a solid foundation.

“My goal is to bridge the gap of communication between all levels of the staff,” Watson added. “I believe that incoming staff should not have to assume what is to take place, but to be provided an administrative professional that’s knowledgeable and has interpersonal skills because we wear all hats, too. I will always find a way to streamline communications. I will always take care of people and I will always be sure staff are ready and equipped with the tools and resources needed to support their roles.”

Kayleigh Griffin is a new admin support assistant who started working in September 2023. She is responsible for timekeeping, travel orders, vouchers, training, government cardholder purchases, inventory and more.

“I serve as the point of contact for employees whenever they have questions,” Griffin said. “One thing I enjoy most about this job is the working relationships that I build.”
Admin professionals are ‘glue’ that lets organization stick to priorities
Kayleigh Griffin, admin support assistant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch in Nashville, Tennessee, prepares informational materials at the Nashville District Headquarters May 7, 2024, for an upcoming Education Seminar and Conference for Administrative Professional’s Enrichment, also called “ESCAPE.” (USACE Photo by Leon Roberts) (Photo Credit: Leon Roberts) VIEW ORIGINAL

Griffin said it is challenging being involved with a high-demand working-environment with tasks that have quick turn-around times. Time management with shifting priorities is all part of the job, she said.

“I feel a lot of satisfaction being able to help employees resolve pressing and urgent issues and being someone they depend on,” Griffin added.

Griffin is currently attending online classes with Unity Environmental University in Maine and hopes to complete a bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation in 2025. Her plan is to pursue a biology position with the Corps of Engineers with a degree focused on wildlife biology and conservation management.

While admins may pursue degrees in public administration, business administration, industrial engineering, industrial management, or other administrative or management fields, some branch out and achieve degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields and then pursue leadership roles in other Corps of Engineers career fields.

Stephanie Coleman, chief of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, started as a part time clerk typist with the Operations Division’s Natural Resources Branch in September 1987. She became a full-time secretary of the branch in August 1988, and served in that capacity until 1992. She then worked as a park contract technician involved with processing administrative actions at field projects.

The Nashville District reassigned Coleman to the EEO Office as an administrative support assistant in January 1994. Her responsibilities involved tracking entry-level complaint processing, supporting other EEO programs and handling administrative office functions like timekeeping, record keeping, training, and travel.

During those years, Coleman said she chose the administrative career field because it provided her an opportunity to be a civil servant. At the same time, she served as secretary for her church’s Sunday school, and had a love for organizing and writing.

“Getting my start as an admin certainly paved the way in broadening my early knowledge of the district. But it also contributed to my understanding of just how critical great service and support from the individuals in these positions are to the big picture of the organization,” Coleman said. “They really are the glue. If I could offer anything to our admin professionals from where I now sit, it would be, ‘Like glue, spread and stick!’ Spread as in don’t confine yourselves to desks and busy paperwork, but avail yourselves to opportunities that stretch you and increase your knowledge of this awesome organization you work for. Stick as in depart from your comfort zones and leave lasting impressions with the people you will always serve with in some capacity or another.”
Admin professionals are ‘glue’ that lets organization stick to priorities
Stephanie Coleman, Equal Employment Opportunity Office chief, shares her experiences and expertise as a supervisor and EEO officer May 8, 2024, with participants in the Supervisors Training Program at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. She started as a part time clerk typist with the Operations Division’s Natural Resources Branch in September 1987. (USACE Photo by Leon Roberts) (Photo Credit: Leon Roberts) VIEW ORIGINAL

Coleman has been a mainstay in EEO for 30 years, the last six as chief, and plans to retire soon from federal service. She is thankful for her time as an admin where she made a difference serving great leaders and forged relationships, visited projects, increased her knowledge of the organization, and escaped her comfort zones.

The Nashville District celebrated Administrative Professionals Day April 24, 2024. District Engineer Lt. Col. Robert Green and Executive Officer Joanne Mann thanked and congratulated the district’s admin personnel for their many contributions.

Mann, who got her start with the Corps of Engineers as a legal assistant in the Office of Counsel in 1995, shared a note from Marie R. Arthur, executive assistant for Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, 55th chief of engineers.

Arthur noted that each admin possesses an uncanny ability to make even the most routine tasks seem like an adventure. “Whether it’s organizing files, scheduling meetings, or pulling the supply cabinet back from the brink of chaos, your superhuman powers never cease to amaze,” Mann read out loud during the event. “Thank you for being the superhero of your office, the magician of organization, a time-bending genius, diplomat extraordinaire, and the office comedian. You truly make the workplace a better, bright, and more entertaining place to be.”

Mann said admins are indeed the glue of the district, and it’s a leadership priority to support admins with recognition and equip them with training initiatives like the annual Education Seminar and Conference for Administrative Professional’s Enrichment, also called “ESCAPE.”

“It has become a regular tool that the district uses to educate our administrative professionals and offer them an opportunity to learn more about their jobs, network, and share best practices,” Mann said.

The Nashville District employs approximately 50 administrative professionals that support its operations, engineering, construction, planning, project management, regulatory, contracting, real estate, and general office staff functions.

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