Contracting officer spends more than four decades at Huntsville Center

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published May 29, 2014
Wanda Hampton

Wanda Hampton

When Wanda Hampton took a summer job as a student aid at what was then known as the Corps of Engineers Huntsville Division’s Comptroller Department in 1974 for college funding, she never guessed she’d be leaving 40 years later as contracting officer with great respect for the family she now knows as Huntsville Center.

Hampton, team lead on the Huntsville Center Contracting Directorate’s Electronic Technology Support Branch, retired May 30. She has been with the ESTB team since 2010 and is responsible for the execution of day-to-day operational oversight and control for assigned staff and has complete authority or oversight for all contractual actions and phases of the program.

Hampton said she has worked on just about every program at Huntsville Center so coming to this new team was a great experience for her because it gives her an opportunity to learn a new program. After all, much of everything she already knows, she’s learned it here.

“I’ve spent most of my life at Huntsville Center. I came here when I was 16 years old, as a summer hire. I wanted to earn money during the summer and get some experience to help me get a job with the federal government after I graduated high school. Somehow the months turned into years and the years turned into decades,” Hampton said.

After graduating from S.R. Butler High School in 1975, Hampton received a bachelor’s in business administration from Alabama A&M University in 1979. Her first job at Huntsville Center was to help with accounting procedures. Since then, she has worked as a contracts specialist, contracting officer, branch chief and team lead and taken on a variety of key acquisitions unlimited signatory authority for specialized procurement programs of significant importance to the Corps of Engineers.

Hampton said she only left the corps twice during her career, to work as a student in the TOW Project Office and the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center for a few months so she feels that she’s actually “grown up” with Huntsville Center.

Hampton has seen her share of leadership changes at the organization. Col. John Parish Jr. was the commander when she arrived at Huntsville Division. Since then, she has worked under 15 new commanders.

“I’ve seen people come and go over the past 40 years. You just learn to adapt to new leaders and work together,” Hampton said. “Everyone here is like family because I’ve often spent more time here than at my own home. I’ve spent so many late hours here working on hot projects and to support fiscal year end. Even my teammates’ children feel like they are my own because of how close-knit we’ve become over the years. The corps is a family-friendly organization. This is why I’ve stayed so long.”

Despite the highly visible projects she’s worked on, Hampton claims her favorite memory at Huntsville Center was burning the midnight oil with her co-workers to support projects.

“We (Contracting) go that extra mile to do whatever it takes to satisfy our customers. We pull together to get the job done,” Hampton said.

A native of Huntsville, she has a large family of five brothers and two sisters. Many of them still live in the city. Hampton and her daughters, Sharita and Shaii, and her three grandchildren, Xavier, Xachary and Kensley, plan to stay in Huntsville.

“I’ve never really wanted to live anywhere else. This will always be home for me,” Hampton said.

Surprisingly, Hampton will move on to the next phase of her life without the fanfare that is usually associated with retirement. She requested that her team forgo putting on a formal retirement ceremony in her honor and chose instead to have her current supervisor, Darren Sackett, chief of Huntsville Center Contracting Directorate’s Electronic Technology Support Branch present her retirement plaque and certificate during a gathering at her favorite restaurant, Red Lobster, May 22.

Upon retirement, Hampton plans to spend time with her family as well as continuing to care for children as a foster parent for the Madison County Department of Human Resources. She has been a foster parent for more than 12 years. She thinks everyone will be happy to have her home full time soon.

“This is how I contribute to society. This is how I give back and try to make a difference,” she said.

Hampton credits her foster kids, who she also calls her inspiration, and her daughters and grandchildren, as her driving force behind her success.

“They were the reason I worked for so long. I wanted to take care of them and give them an example of what you can accomplish with hard work and determination,” she said. “They were always there to support me no matter what. I guess they were always the wind beneath my wings. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Hampton said she recognizes how fortunate she is to have been a member of the Huntsville Center family. She would recommend her organization to anyone who is looking for federal employment. When asked if she had any advice for students who are new to the federal government, Hampton said she’d tell them to make the most of their experience and take advantage of any training opportunity that is available to them.

“Come to work on time and work hard, do your very best,” she said. “It’s also very important for you to rotate often to sharpen your skill set, because you never know how long a job is going to last.”

Hampton said she hates to say goodbye so will just say, until we meet again.

“I was blessed with a unique opportunity to grow up both personally and professionally here at the center. I’ve had to make a few sacrifices, but it was worth it,” she said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with an outstanding group of professionals. But all good things come to an end. I will miss everyone so much!”