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GSA Poised for Bright Future, Doan Tells Blacks in Government Conference

Remarks by
Lurita Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Blacks In Government Conference 
Nashville, Tennessee
August 14, 2007


Thanks, Jimmy; Good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to be at the Blacks in Government Conference for my second year in a row—and I really look forward to next year when BIG moves to my hometown, New Orleans, for its 30th anniversary conference!

The state of Tennessee holds fond memories for me; I loved my time at U-T. Tennessee is beautiful country and, while it may be tempting to spend all of your time on Printers’ Alley, if you have any kind of an opportunity to travel over this weekend after BIG ends, do take the opportunity to see the mountains.  They are spectacular and justifiably world famous.

When I joined you last year in New York, I’d only been at GSA for two months. The year has whizzed by and, I don’t have to tell any of you, a lot has changed at GSA.  That’s what we’re here to talk about today. I really like your theme this year: meeting the challenge of a changing workplace. I look at that a little differently because I try to see each challenge as an opportunity to excel.  So another way to approach BIG’s conference theme would be: discovering opportunities to excel in a changing workplace. Society has changed enormously over the past few decades since BIG was organized; the workplace has also changed, mostly for the better.

Drawing on my own history, my great-grandmother was a free black in the time after Lincoln freed the slaves. She sold café au lait and pralines from a stand on the French market. Her clients were mostly businessmen, waiting, literally, for their ships to come in—waiting at, what is now, a GSA building in New Orleans—the U.S. Customs House.

Four generations later, that enterprising woman’s great-grand daughter was picked by the President of the United States to run a federal agency that processes billions in federal spending each year. I wish it were possible to take my great-grandmother for a walk around GSA. It’s probably obvious my great-grandmother had a strong desire to succeed. Blacks in Government encourages that same desire to succeed, which is why supporting BIG and our Benjamin Banneker chapter has been an easy call, and why I’ve encouraged GSA employees nationwide to participate. The annual conference offers exceptional training and networking opportunities. This event stimulates personal development and professionalism, and it encourages us all to keep a sharp focus on achieving equality of opportunity.

For opportunity to be part of the equation, though, we must have business success. And for that we need a few critical ingredients, starting with the right leadership team. Several members of team GSA are here, starting with …

  • FAS Commissioner Jim Williams;

We also have:

  • RA Dennis Smith from our New England Region
  • RA Barbara Shelton from the Mid-Atlantic Region;
  • NCR Regional Administrator Tony Reed;
  • Casey Coleman, Acting CIO;
  • Tyree Varnado, FAS ARA from the Greater Southwest Region;
  • Deputy RA Ann Everett from NCR;
  • And Deputy RA Jimmy Bridgeman from the Southeast Sunbelt Region.

And at a table over there to the left, we have Jack Hanley, the NFFE President

Thank you all for being here today. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give them a hand.

I was talking about the ingredients for business success.  Another ingredient is the proper plan to keep moving forward. We now have that plan.

The new GSA strategic plan is our blueprint for the future … a statement of who we are as an agency and what we stand for.  The plan shows how we will use our procurement muscle and nearly 60 years of experience to build a successful future, for our workforce and for our organization. The plan spells out our priorities, with respect to mission, vision, goals, and emerging trends.

We didn’t pull these priorities out of a hat, by the way. The strategic plan was conceived after careful study of customer behavior, industry shifts, and performance results.  One of the keys to success – to greater customer satisfaction - will be closer collaboration between FAS and PBS. The guiding principle behind this effort has been captured as, “One Gsa – One Voice.”

Look for it on the posters in your buildings: One Gsa – One Voice.

There’s a lot of work ahead, and I hope you’re with me. Transformational change, which is what we are doing every day at GSA as we prepare the way for GSA to be the government’s premiere procurement agency of the 21st Century, is not always easy.  But, as Rascal Flatts, one of my favorite Nashville country western bands, sings:  ‘When push comes to shove, you find what you’re made of.”  I think the employees at GSA are made of the finest stuff.

I’ve said from the day I walked in that GSA’s greatest asset is its dedicated, innovative workforce. We have 12,000 employees and each one is important if we’re to remain the federal government’s premier acquisition agency. Don’t limit your imaginations. Look for creative ways to make our customers happier, to help our agency grow, and for your own chance to flourish.  President John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

We have so much more we need to do together to help GSA enjoy a splendid future in the 21st Century.  And, I am looking forward to working with each and every one of you to make a nation served by GSA’s superior workplace solutions a reality.

Thanks and have a great conference!