SEATTLE - Contract specialist Mary Hesser describes working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as “getting into the gates of heaven.” She specializes in handling contracts for military and environmental projects as well as contracts for work overseas and for other government agencies.
For some, this might sound like an exaggeration, but to Hesser, continuing her federal career with USACE is part of living her best life.
Before transferring to USACE in 2021, Hesser was a purchasing agent with Mission Installation Contracting Command at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. For nine years, which included her being promoted to contract specialist, she researched and compared government-approved suppliers along with their goods and services, for the Army installation.
Being limited to the types of contracts she worked on and looking for professional growth, Hesser was driven to explore new opportunities. Seattle District’s range of large construction and environmental protection contracts offered the perfect combination of challenges and professional growth and development, to motivate the University of Maryland University College graduate to work here.
Valerie Fegurgur, lead quality assurance specialist with 419th Contracting Support Brigade, MICC at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and one of Hesser’s former colleagues said Hesser’s “...determination and drive to learn something new reflect her initiative to complete any task given.”
Bruce Okumura, Hesser’s current supervisor and branch chief, echoed Fegurgur’s sentiments.
“Mary has been able to operate at a high level from the beginning and is using her knowledge and experience to benefit the team,” Okumura said. “Although USACE acquisition procedures and systems were alien to her, she quickly assimilated into the contracting team with her solid technical competencies and business acumen.”
The Army has had a continuous presence in Hesser’s life since childhood as she was raised in South Korea and Europe during her father’s service in the Military Police Corps. Hesser, who returned to the U.S. to attend college, credits her parents for instilling confidence in her to go anywhere and be successful, and her time abroad for her love of traveling. She said living abroad made her adaptable, a necessary trait in her current position.
“Being exposed to different cultures and religions... made me more open minded.” Hesser said.
Hesser said she questioned her capabilities for her new role up to her first day with the Corps, but Okumura and her teammates reassured her, trusted her abilities, and confirmed their support. A few months into the job, Hesser said she believes her team’s continued trust and support empower her to own her place as a valuable member of the team.
“Something that I think is really important, is just having the people you work with, be able to depend on you getting the job done.” Hesser said.
She maintains her position that the team’s support is what inspires her to find success in the projects she handles.
Hesser said, “The level of support your team gives you - working with the project manager, the technical side, the supervisor - is always a great thing, when you have people you can depend on.”
In addition to her team, Hesser has several mentors who offer guidance, and she is learning new skills from meetings that explore different contracting techniques and professional development courses. She credits Okumura for encouraging team members to either acquire new skills or take refresher courses.
Despite her first-day nerves, the team recognizes Hesser’s skills and abilities, and she is now managing various contracting projects. Curt Stepp, one of the branch’s team leads and a contracting officer, describes Hesser’s ability to manage a very heavy workload with all these different contract type
s as impressive.
Hesser, who enjoys hiking with her husband Ben and spending time with their dog Rocky, said she also credits district leadership for taking its core values like “People First” to heart. She said knowing that district leadership values her time working with USACE while simultaneously encouraging work-life balance for every employee, gives her an extra boost of support.
“They [the district] understand you have vacation, families, personal goals, and they are willing to flex time with you, where you can work an extra hour today so you can get off an hour early tomorrow,” Hesser explained.
Perhaps Hesser is right. Maybe she IS working in her own part of heaven, after all.
The Army Corps of Engineers is a world-wide organization that serves our nation’s military and civilian engineering needs. The Seattle District is one of five districts in the Northwestern Division, and there are nine divisions spanning the U.S. and overseas. We provide water resource and engineering solutions to the Pacific Northwest and the nation, and are involved in protecting our waterways, producing clean hydroelectric power, flood and disaster response, and helping our local salmon population. Our workforce incorporates a wide variety of professional, technical, skilled, and administrative support positions in engineering, project management, science, trades, and crafts. Specific engineering disciplines include civil, mechanical, electrical and hydraulics. Scientist positions include geologists, hydrologists, biologists, environmental resources specialists and archeologists.