When Dianne Edwardson started her career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1982, she was one of only three female park rangers. On Aug. 19, she retired as chief of Operations Division for one of the largest districts across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: the Baltimore District.
Though only a little less than three of Edwardson’s 35 years of federal service were spent with Baltimore, she leaves behind a new standard of excellence that will last for years to come.
She held several positions in Operations across eight different Corps of Engineers districts. Upon arrival at Baltimore, she not only knew what goals to set and where to guide Operations Division, but she provided a clear vision for how to achieve those goals.
“Making a division better is hard to do,” said Bill Seib, Baltimore District Operations Division deputy chief. “Dianne showed that you don’t need 30 years to do it.”
People are the Priority
At the top of the list? People.
“Dianne was a strong advocate for her team members both in the office as well as personally,” said Amy Guise, Baltimore District Planning Division chief.
For Edwardson, success for the district and for Operations Division started and ended with people. To that end, she took several key steps to ensure that her staff and she took care of the employees who made the organization work.
“She made it a priority to meet with her staff out in the field; she stressed the importance of training and cross-training opportunities; and she worked hard to ensure staff were sufficiently recognized for their efforts,” said Seib.
Recognition, in particular, was a point of emphasis for Edwardson. She offered everything from achievement medals to handwritten notes for employees who helped contribute to a successful initiative, no matter how big or small.
Educating our Leaders
There are many nuanced sections that fall under the Operations Division, including regulatory, flood risk management, recreation and navigation.
Edwardson influenced leaders from the Baltimore District Corporate Board through Operations Project Reviews that entailed visits to key project sites to demonstrate how one functional area directly impacts another.
“She worked hard to elevate our leaders at all levels,” said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Baltimore District commander.
She also played a key role in the district’s Leadership Development Program, aiding in the growth of junior leaders by championing the establishment of the Supervisory Community of Practice and the supervisor training component of the Shaping Leaders for Tomorrow initiative.
Spotlight on Safety
Taking care of people is more than just rewarding them for their accomplishments and providing them with training opportunities; it also involves making the hard decisions to comply with occupational and safety regulations.
Edwardson took critical steps to improve her safety program, including installing life jacket loaner stations at every district recreational site and implementing the Arc Flash Program to reduce electrical-related injuries. She noticed inconsistencies in how safety requirements involving electricity were being handled at recreation and dam sites. She urgently worked to address this issue through site inspections, advanced training, proper identification and labeling of electrical sites and education on appropriate use of mandatory personal protective equipment.
Information is Key
Edwardson challenged the way the district conducted business and drove the organization to establish an asset management program that is now leading the region and reducing risk.
Taking into account that the dams and levees in Baltimore District’s area of responsibility were built anywhere from 40 to 75 years ago, Edwardson led a program to better inventory these project sites. Since coming on board, staff have been trained to identify potential deficiencies at the projects and to enter this information into a database.
“We are a great organization that is knowledgeable within all of our core missions,” said Steve Brown, Baltimore District Flood Risk Management Branch chief. “But Dianne’s experience, perspective and initiatives challenged us to rethink how we conduct business. It was uncomfortable at first, but, as we worked through the initial inertia, we became even greater.”
A Lasting Impact on the Region and Economy
Throughout her federal career, Edwardson has covered a lot of ground and laid the foundation for some very unique programs and projects.
Dianne Edwardson, at left, at the Lake Barkley Resource Manager's Office
Some specific key efforts Edwardson provided oversight to at Baltimore District include the smooth transition of two updated five-year state programmatic general permits for Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the reinstatement of a nationwide permit for aquaculture activities in Maryland. This work through the Regulatory Branch provides for more efficient review processes, so proposed projects that have minimal adverse impacts to the environment can be approved faster.
Edwardson’s Navigation Branch team spearheaded efforts to widen the approach channels for the Port of Baltimore and also designed, constructed and delivered the district’s first new vessel since 1992, Survey Vessel CATLETT.
At Raystown Lake, her team played a hand in the development of the innovative, interactive Alegrippis bike trail — the first of its kind on federal lands.
“Edwardson has had a long, distinguished career,” said Seib. “She left Operations Division with the foundation for long-term success, which is all you can ask from a leader. I will miss Dianne and the knowledge she brought the Baltimore District.”
During a retirement ceremony held Aug. 17 at the Baltimore District Headquarters, Edwardson held up a poster board with her start and end date with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers written in large font.
“Since I started, I’ve had a lot of great memories and great times, as well as shed a lot of tears,” said Edwardson while addressing the attendees. “I just hope I was able to contribute a little stock between the dashes.”
The many speeches and awards presented to Edwardson during her ceremony were a testament to how much Edwardson gave to her work and to her people.
“Edwardson was not only great to us, but a tremendous service to our nation,” said Chamberlayne.
Col. Ed Chamberlayne, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District commander, honors Dianne Edwardson, Baltimore District Operations Division chief, with a Certificate of Retirement at the district Headquarters in Baltimore during Edwardson's retirement ceremony, Aug. 17, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Cynthia Mitchell)