NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 26, 2015) – “Thinking regionally” and understanding organizational structures, missions and leadership perspectives is why the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s Regional Leadership Development Program sent its participants to the Nashville District in Music City this week.
Ten mid-level supervisors from the Louisville District, Buffalo District, Pittsburgh District, Huntington District, Chicago District, Detroit District and Nashville District received briefings, met with leaders, and also visited Old Hickory Dam to learn more about the project’s hydropower plant and navigation lock.
Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, Nashville District commander, welcomed the group and gave an overview Wednesday morning of the district’s missions in the Tennessee and Cumberland River watersheds and over an area of responsibility covering seven states. He also touched on a full spectrum of missions, which include hydropower, navigation, recreation, regulatory, flood risk reduction, environmental stewardship, water management, construction, engineering, real estate, emergency management, and other planning and project management functions.
A unique partnership Hudson also shared with the group involves the district’s relationship with the Tennessee Valley Authority, which requires fostering constant communication to discuss a wide variety of issues involving the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, he said.
“We need to manage these rivers in parallel… so our relationship is very tight,” Hudson said.
John McCormick, vice president of Safety, River Management and Environmental at TVA, also talked to the group and shared his perspective on leadership based on an impressive resume of experience. He has worked more than 30 years in fossil, hydro and nuclear industries, and is currently responsible for the forecasting and scheduling of the entire Tennessee River System, and the operation, maintenance and engineering of TVA’s 29 hydroelectric dams, 20 non-power dams, one pumped storage plant, 14 navigation locks and over 5,200 megawatts of power generation.
McCormick gave a brief overview of the history and operations at TVA and about the impact of the organization in the Tennessee Valley.
“We’re the largest public power entity in the country,” McCormick said. “We’re also the most successful because we stopped taking appropriations from Congress in about 1998. So we are self sufficient... everything we do doesn’t go to shareholders - it goes back into rate payers.”
He said streamlining processes is an important part of managing resources and said leadership is vital to operating effectively and being self sufficient. He emphasized that leadership is about influencing people to do great things, and relationships determine results.
“I don’t care if it’s interagency. I don’t care if it’s supervisor to those underneath them. I don’t care if it’s peer to peer. I don’t care if it’s you to your boss. Relationships determine results,” McCormick said. “If you don’t have a relationship, how can you get anything done?”
McCormick noted that TVA and the Nashville District have a great relationship and it’s meaningful because of similar missions and interaction with stakeholders.
“This is a unique relationship that we have, and on the working level it is amazing,” McCormick said.
The group traveled to Old Hickory Dam Wednesday afternoon and toured an Emergency Command and Control Vehicle, which is a national asset that supports Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements.
They also went to the navigation lock to learn about the movement of barges and recreational traffic up and down the river, and looked at spilling operations through the spill gates of the dam.
Lastly, they toured the hydropower plant where water from the reservoir enters gate-controlled intakes into the powerhouse, rotates the turbines, and discharges through draft tubes into the river below the dam. Generators produce the electric current, which is increased in voltage by transformers and carried from the power plant by transmission lines leading from the switchyard.
Ryan Jeffries, civil engineer and chief of Plan Formulation in the Louisville District’s Planning Branch Plan Formulation Section, said the visit to the Nashville District was a great experience because of the various different missions such as the hydropower program, and the unique relationship with TVA.
“Having the opportunity to make some contacts with our counterparts in the other districts and then learn about the uniqueness of each district and what they do has really been a benefit to me,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries also said he was impressed with the McCormick’s message about leadership and the concept that relationships determine results.
“It’s real simple, straight forward concept that rings true – you know I can see that. I think a lot of times, even within our own organization, that is how we fail. We don’t build those relationships between the districts or between the district and our division office or even between our own team members. That’s something I really want to take back and put into practice,” Jeffries stressed.
John Busse, acting chief of the Buffalo District Special Projects Branch’s International and Interagency Support and Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program, said he really enjoyed the opportunity to see the hydropower plant at Old Hickory Dam.
“It was good to get down in there and see the components and how they work and have terrific briefers to provide all the details of how the stuff is operating. I thought it was fantastic,” Busse said. “It was great and it really showed Nashville in a positive light.”
The Regional Leadership Development Program participants spent time this morning interacting with a panel of Nashville District leaders with varying backgrounds. They also spent time working on a team project before traveling home in the afternoon.
Dana Craig, Regional LDP coordinator, said the 10-month program’s intent is to provide an opportunity for representatives from the division’s seven districts to learn more about the unique Corps of Engineers functions and missions throughout the region.
“As they move up in the organization they have to start thinking regionally and that’s what they’re doing in this program,” Craig said.
Craig added that leadership and communication are also key elements that are emphasized in the Regional LDP program.
Other participants that participated this week in the Nashville District include Amy Babey, Louisville District; William T. Frederick, Buffalo District; Patricia Hawk, Pittsburgh District; Gregory Jones, Huntington District; Jennifer Miller, Chicago District; Charles Simon, Detroit District; and Jeffrey Ross and Tammy Turley with the Nashville District.
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