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Bibb Addresses BIG Conference

Remarks by
David L. Bibb
Acting Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Blacks in Government Agency Forum
New Orleans, Louisiana
August 12, 2008

Thank you, Barbara for that kind introduction. It’s great to be here with you in New Orleans, and to see so many familiar faces – Barney, Tony, Martha, Dennis, Casey, and all the rest who made the trip. I know you did so because you realize the importance of the annual BIG conference, and the value of interacting with your colleagues in a more relaxed environment.

I’d also like to introduce my wife Becky.

Becky and I married in 1971, the same year I started at GSA. Both have been wonderful, fulfilling relationships, but Barbara was right – my official relationship with GSA is ending. I’m now a short-timer.

Please don’t think in any way that my passion for public service has diminished. Rather, it burns as brightly as ever, which is why I was especially pleased to learn the theme of this year’s Blacks in Government conference is: Navigating New Challenges with High Professional Competency and Dedication to Public Service.

For I think you do need both to succeed. The challenges to GSA are coming fast and furious: competition, the volatility of the marketplace; the so-called “silver tsunami,” rising costs and limited resources, and of course the challenge to meet our client agencies’ needs for goods and services in a way that helps rather than hurts our environment.

All of it can be done, but this year’s convention theme hits it dead on – continuous self-improvement and dedication must be part of the answer. That’s true for the agency as well as for the individual.

Gail Lovelace’s organization, as one example, has done a great job of helping GSA become one of the top federal workplaces, which is important to employees as well as prospective employees. I’ll talk about that in a second, but I wanted you to know that Gail is unfortunately absent this year because I asked her to stay in Washington and continue working on the presidential transition. History is being made this year, and all of us at GSA are part of that history.

By law, GSA provides the president-elect and vice-president-elect with the services and facilities needed to assume their official duties. It falls to us, for instance, to provide a fully equipped headquarters and a variety of services (like telecommunications, IT, mail and financial management) for the 600 or so members of the president-elect’s team.
But let me “transition” back to GSA and the work being done to build and maintain our world class workforce.

All of us know employees want programs that will help them advance. GSA ’s Leadership Institute’s offerings include highly focused developmental courses like, “Leadership for New Supervisors” and the “Advanced Leadership Development Program.”

If you haven’t looked into these programs, I urge you to do so.

Our National Mentoring Program, which I’m proud to have been part of, pairs talented, experienced employees with protégés who want to enhance their leadership and other business skills.

For acquisition professionals, the Federal Acquisition Institute offers online and classroom training.

We also offer GSA Online University, available to all GSA employees and featuring more than 1,600 online courses.

Gail’s office is also heavily involved in our telework initiative. In these days of environmental concern and soaring gas prices, I’m proud that GSA is a federal government leader in telework. Nearly 30 percent of our employees now work at least one day a week at home or at a telework center.

Like many federal workplaces, we also offer Alternative Work Schedules and the Transit Subsidy Program. Unlike the others, GSA is a leader in world class child care. Most of you know GSA manages more than 100 centers; what you may not know is that 85 percent are accredited by the rigorous National Association for The Education of Young Children.

So, like Blacks in Government, we too are moving forward with a defined future in mind so that when it arrives, we’ll be ready. And while the call to public service is powerful in and of itself, we have additional incentives to draw the best and brightest, and to keep them once they come on board.

I hope you’ll keep that in mind, especially if you’re among those who’ve been asked to participate in the OPM Federal Human Capital Survey. I urge you to fill out your survey, which helps determine the top federal workplaces.

You know, Blacks In Government was established in 1975, four years after I joined GSA as a management intern in Atlanta. It’s been easy to support big because I think we have so much in common, like, the goals of promoting:

  • Equity in all aspects of American life;
  • Excellence in public service, and;
  • Opportunity for all Americans.

likewise, this year’s conference offers a great selection of workshops that will help you get prepared to navigate the challenges we all know are coming. I looked at the agenda and was pleased to see workshops offered on topics such as:

  • Communications skills;
  • Financial management;
  • Executive leadership;
  • Information technology, and;
  • How to build coalitions.

Let me turn back to leadership a moment. My thought on this as I look back on 37 years in the government is that people need to be lifted above themselves. As Deputy and as Acting Administrator, I think part of my role has been to challenge folks to push toward a very clear set of goals. And – at the risk of sounding a little touchy-feely – I believe it really means something special to be a civil servant.

The great fighter Muhammed Ali said:

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

As civil servants, we of course serve the taxpayers. Most of us at GSA do that indirectly by helping to meet the needs of our client agencies.

I believe in treating people well, I believe in treating people with respect, and I believe when you do that that it filters on down through the organization.

It’s funny – when I came on board in the 1970s and by the 1980s, it was almost a bad thing to be a federal employee. We were told time and again by the press and the politicians that we were basically a bunch of bums sitting around with our feet up on the desk. Today, I think the tide has turned. You look at some of the opinion surveys -- and you can't base it all on the surveys - but you know, there are a lot of federal employees who are doing a great job and the work is pretty interesting. So I would say all of us are in a good place, and I am very optimistic that GSA will retain its place among the top federal workplaces.

In closing, thank you for letting me speak at this event, and for your hospitality at many previous BIG conferences. Know that as I prepare to leave GSA, I do so believing we are a great organization with a critical mission. What we do each day has meaning and purpose. I think the future holds great promise, and that our workforce – our diverse and very talented workforce – will make sure we continue to bring excellence to the business of government.

Thank you very much. I have enjoyed our long relationship and wish you all the best in the future.

Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13