They are hard-working, reliable, flexible, exceptional communicators, organized, can multitask, and problem-solving, all while having a smile on their face. Their list of responsibilities is endless and can change from day to day depending on what is needed.
Anyone who has an Administrative Professional or other specialist in this role knows how critical this person is.
As Executive Office Administrative Professional Brenda Barber said, "People say I'm very important (LOL)."
She's right. Barber started as a contractor and has been in position now for 12 years. Her time in this role is proof of just how important she is to those she assists.
While appreciated daily, today, April 21, is the day these professionals should feel extra special and valued, as today is the National Administrative Professionals Day.
According to the National Day Archives, "Charles Sawyer, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, officially declared a National Secretaries Day in 1952. As tasks changed and multiplied, this day transformed over time and became National Administrative Professionals Day in 2000."
The Memphis District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently employs 25 administrative professionals. They are Nichelle Terry, Christopher Moore, Hosea Lark, Caroline Stuckett, Antoinette Patterson, Cavia Stephens, Sara Ko, Anthony Stallings, Duriel Israel, Jeff Berry, Cherrie Smith, Kim Wooten, Shanon Fortolis, Kai Alimayu, Angela Cody, Adrienne Buford, Alexandria Duckett, Ramona Oring, Brenda Barber, Sandra Hibbard, Raeshuna Collier, Anthony Lee, Thomas Sweeney, Tami Jacobs, and Bianca Young.
Quite a few of them also hold other job titles because, as mentioned before, their list of responsibilities varies from day to day. With all that knowledge and the ability to juggle multiple tasks at once, one has to wonder how they got to be in their position – so we asked.
"One of my earliest jobs as a teen was Receptionist/Clerk at a Bridal Salon," Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch Secretary Kai Alimayu said. "I'd had other jobs before, but found a role I loved, being the 'face' of a small company, ensuring our client's needs were met, meeting new people, and learning all the elements of running a successful 'customer satisfaction' based business."
Later, when Alimayu joined the Marines, she was trained and given the opportunity to serve as a Personnel Clerk, then promoted to the broader responsibilities of Administrative Clerk, even filling in as a Legal Clerk and Training Clerk when the need arose.
"After the military, and while in college, I was able to secure a Work-Study position at the Veteran Affairs hospital, here in Memphis," Alimayu continued. "Work-Study led to a Medical Clerk position, and I excelled at that job to the point I was entrusted with the added responsibilities of Patient Liaison, Records Administrator, and Clinic Admin. From there, I applied for and was granted the Secretarial position here at the Corps of Engineers."
While Alimayu gradually worked her way up to the admin position, Operations Division Administrative Assistant Cherrie Smith said she gratefully picked up the administrative position while her husband served in the military.
"It joined me," Smith started. "My first government job was being a program technician. In order to get picked up by the government, I would use the spousal preference program, and most jobs that I got picked up for tend to have been admin or management assistance positions."
Smith said that because she was a military wife and had to pick up and move every two to three years, she was thankful for the program, as it allowed her to move with her family knowing there would be a job on the other side.
She's thankful for the spousal preference and her position, and her supervisor and others she helps are grateful for her as well.
"Cherrie does an excellent job in her position in Operations Division (O.D.)," Smith's Supervisor and O.D. Deputy Chief Rodger Funderburk said. "She provides guidance and direction to O.D. employees relative to timekeeping, records, and correspondence."
Smith routinely audits a sample of timekeeping records within O.D. and highlights areas in need of improvement. She then works with the appropriate branch/unit/section to ensure an understanding of the areas needing improvement. Smith also tracks the status of correspondence coming into and out of O.D. and ensures actions are taken by Funderburk and O.D. Chief Russ Davis in a timely manner.
"This is just a sample of her routine activities related to her position," Funderburk continued.
"Additionally, in her position, Cherrie corresponds with individuals at all levels within and outside the organization. We also see that Cherrie is respected by her peers and is frequently consulted on various topics. She provides assistance and feedback to all who consult her and is truly a District asset in this regard. She handles all these interactions professionally, and her actions reflect favorably on the organization. We truly appreciate all that Cherrie does."
Smith isn't alone in being appreciated. Her fellow administrative professionals, Barber and Alimayu, are also valued by others in their workspace. Here's what some had to say.
"I am so thankful for the executive office administrative assistant, Brenda Barber," Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Nathan Molica said. "Not only is she competent at her duties, but she genuinely just cares about the district and its employees. She is a sounding board for many employees, myself included. She takes time to check on my well-being apart from the day-to-day requirements of work. I appreciate her wisdom, insight, and perspective in making the District a great place to work. Thanks for always keeping me straight."
"Thank you (Kai) for making sure we all get paid (timesheets), are able to go where we need to go (travel orders), have what we need when we get there (Supply Order PRCs), and have fun doing it (Christmas Party)!" Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch Chief Michael Clay said. "Happy Administrative Assistant Day!"
The importance of this position cannot be overstated. And if considering joining this critical yet satisfying career field, Alimayu has some advice to offer.
"Seldom, we find what we're gifted at and blessed enough to have someone pay you to do what you love," Alimayu said. "Working in the Administrative Field, you are the face of the company. Many times, you're the first impression that clients will have of that business. No business can run successfully without the unique skills of its Admin Staff. You're the nerve center, connecting all of the separate parts of a machine with a mission. If you enjoy taking care of people, love new challenges and easily embrace progress, are gifted with a sense of organization and can multitask, you'll enjoy this field as much as I do."
Alimayu said it best. "No business can run successfully without the unique skills of its admin staff." And because of that, the Memphis District is beyond grateful for all the administrative specialists employed with the district. Thank you for all you do for the district, the division, and the nation, not just today, but every day. Again, Happy Administrative Professionals Day! We hope you all know how much you're appreciated.