With over 30 years of experience with the Corps of Engineers, Dianne Edwardson comes to the Baltimore District with a wide range of experiences from several districts.
Edwardson started with the Corps back in 1983 at Greers Ferry Lake in Arkansas.
“I was a GS-03 Park Aid making $4.91 an hour and couldn’t have been more excited,” said Edwardson. “At that time, it was the top-visited USACE park and I worked in the booth at the campground entrance.”
Edwardson was finishing classes at University of Central Arkansas and working toward a degree in public administration and planning.
“After working my first summer there, I came back for a second summer and realized we were not prepared for Memorial Day so I did a lot of extra work on my own planning for campers. My boss was really impressed and he asked if I wanted to be a co-op student.”
Edwardson joined as a co-op student, which was later known as the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and now as Pathways program.
“I became a permanent employee and continued to work at Greers Ferry until 1989. Most of my tasks were automation type jobs and I felt a little pigeon- holed. I knew that as long as I was there I would continue to get those types of jobs so I applied to go to Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri for an opportunity to gain more experience in the field.”
Edwardson had progressed over the years to a GS-09 but took a downgrade to a GS-07 to go to Missouri. However, within two months, she was promoted to a GS-11 as chief ranger.
She later moved onto the district office in Little Rock and worked a lot with the state parks and other partners. Shortly after, she accepted a detail position with the executive office as the Total Army Quality Program Manager looking at strategic initiatives for the district where she worked with PDTs to look at cost savings initiatives as part of Al Gore’s reinventing government program.
“I then had the opportunity to work as an Operations Project Manager at Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas.”
The project was experiencing some difficulties and undergoing the threat of defunding.
“My role was to go in and work to make things better. Within the four years I was there, we went from a project that was close to being defunded to being recognized as HQUSACE’s Project of the Year,” she said.
“There was a big turnaround in the staff, particularly in morale and their pride in the project. It was the most challenging part of my career to go to something that was at such a critical stage,” said Edwardson. “The rewarding part was the people at the project and how they went from feeling demeaned to where they were proud to come to work every day and the spirit they exhibited working together,” said Edwardson.
Looking back, Edwardson said she’s had the opportunity to do a lot of unique things but one of her favorites was having dinner at the White House with George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush.
“I grew up a little country girl out in the boondocks in a little town called Ida -- a speck on the map. Most folks from a small town don’t think of getting to do that.”
Edwardson worked on a lot of environmental programs and was involved in executing a lake clean up that began in 1979. She wanted to grow that program and eventually it became adopted as the Great Arkansas Clean-Up with then Governor Clinton and Hillary Clinton as sponsors.
“It became a statewide event and a Congressman and two Senators decided it was such a great program that we needed to do it nationwide,” she said. “I was asked to draft language for bills that were presented in the House and Senate and eventually became public law 99-402 which today is known as National Public Lands Day and celebrated across the country,” said Edwardson.
Over the next few years, she spent some time in Wilmington District, South Atlantic Division, St. Louis District, Nashville District, and even completed a detail as a part of Task Force Hope in New Orleans. Most recently, she spent a few years at Portland District as the assistant chief of Operations before moving to Baltimore.
“I like a challenge. I want to continue to make things better. Organizations benefit from people that stay in one place and retain institutional and historical knowledge but also benefit from people that have new ideas, challenge things and push for quality improvements,” said Edwardson.
Edwardson looks forward to a variety of challenges in her new role.
“One of my passions is the navigation business line and I’ll be able to take some of the things I’ve gained in my toolbox and look at the program that we have here,” she said “I want to see how we can partner through new public and private partnerships since WRRDA 2014 opened several avenues for us to be able to use resources that otherwise would not receive appropriated funds; to accomplish things for the American public.
Edwardson said she enjoys being involved in operations because of the impact in creating lasting memories for families.
“We serve the American public in what we do every day. Starting out it was so gratifying to have a camper where you would know that you not only made their weekend great but because they had been planning that vacation for months, they were making memories they carried with them for a lifetime. “
Edwardson’s husband, Eric is also invested in the Corps of Engineers working as OPM for Libby Dam in Seattle District.
“Our paths don’t cross very often. We haven’t lived together since 2005 because of our work. We both are devoted to what we do but are looking forward to the day we retire and can enjoy each other’s company,” she said.
Dianne also has a daughter who lives in Louisiana and two step-children that grew up as part of the Corps. She recalls driving with her daughter on a main road crossing the reservoir and her daughter saying “That’s mommy’s dam.”
In her spare time she enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes.
“I love to cook and try out different kitchen gadgets. I like making things that are a challenge like fancy desserts.”
Edwardson spends a lot of free time reading.
“Very seldom you’ll see me without a book,” she said.
“I really love history and I look forward to exploring the historical sites at Gettysburg and in the surrounding area,” she said.
“I’m glad to be in Baltimore and to get the chance to explore and work in this part of the country.”