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Celebrating a half century of service!

NOAA Employees with 50 Years or More of Service
September 27, 2020

As NOAA celebrates 50 years of science, service, and stewardship, we also celebrate our colleagues still at NOAA who have worked for 50 years or more in federal service. There are 25 people working in the agency with that astounding level of service, and we asked a few of them about their careers. These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

 

 

NOAA Employees with 50 Years of Service

Clyde MacKenzie, Jr.

Fishery biologist, NOAA Fisheries; Sandy Hook, New Jersey
62 years in service

Clyde MacKenzie

My passion for working at NOAA comes from growing up in a commercial fishing community in the 1930s and 1940s where the local fishermen were among its economically-poorest citizens. I wanted to improve their condition. 

My goal has been to bring about actual improvements in fisheries. Through my career, I faced major challenges to increase abundances of oysters in Connecticut, Prince Edward Island (Canada), and Mississippi. I also wrote a fishing history book to preserve a collection of the memories and verbal history of the interesting and productive Raritan Bay for the local people to have in a published form. Each challenge represented a high and steep climb to reach the top, but I attained success in each by hard work, determination, and using the contributions of a great many local people interested in the same goals. I have felt consistently proud about supporting NOAA and its overall goals because they are very noble.

Advice to new employees: 

My advice to the people beginning at NOAA is to set a goal for yourself and work hard to achieve it; this needs to be a goal to serve humanity or the natural environment. Find a group that is searching for the same goal. If you’re not in one already, get into one.

 

Helen Marks

Management analyst, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer; Silver Spring, Maryland
57 years in service

Employees with 50 years of service.

I started as an administrative assistant in the Air Resources Laboratories (ARL) under the Environmental Science Services Administration. My most challenging and rewarding task at ARL was the preparation of a 450-page publication entitled, Meteorology and Atomic Energy, in which the editor acknowledged my work. The IBM Selectric Typewriter was the instrument of choice then, which meant that you had to be proficient at your skill in order to reduce the number of errors you made. That typewriter did not have an internal correction feature until 1973. Employees had to rely on “white-out,” correction fluid, or typewriter erasers in order to correct a typo or make other changes to a document.

Under NOAA, the Assistant Administrator for Administrative and Technical Services created the Upward Mobility Program. I applied and was accepted in the program which became a game changer for me. The program provided career development and growth opportunities to employees in positions at the GS-9 level or below. In transitioning into upper management, I held many staff and managerial positions, including overseeing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act programs.

In 1998, the Department of Justice commended NOAA FOIA staff for being the first executive agency to design a user-friendly FOIA website. The FOIA staff, including me, did not have any experience in designing websites. The project was challenging, but at the same time, a rewarding experience. In addition, the staff received an administrative award for significant achievement that benefited the agency transparency of information under the FOIA.

Advice to new employees: 

For new employees, welcome challenges, learn from your mentors and coworkers, and find enjoyment in what you do. The time will pass quickly and who knows, for the next NOAA anniversary, you might be writing your legacy.

 

Tillman Peck

IT specialist, NOAA Office of Inclusion and Civil Rights; Silver Spring, Maryland
56 years in service

Employees with 50 years of service.

My passion for my work comes from the work itself, and the government’s ability to keep up with the computer revolution. I finally got to work with something for which the computer is ideally suited: database management systems, electronic spreadsheets, email, FAX machines, and high-speed copying/printing – to name a few.

During my career, the computer went from being a large steel-encased mainframe machine situated in a large ice-cold room with elevated flooring – with cables the size of a man’s arm running underneath those floor panels, connecting the central processing unit to the various computer peripherals – to the current arrangement: a laptop computer on every desk, the laptop having more computer memory and and speed and software and interconnectivity than did the original mainframe.

A bittersweet (or sweetbitter) report of something I noticed over time: NOAA has one of the largest concentrations of highly-qualified Black women I have seen in recent years. For the Black men, the path toward mobility upward seems to have encountered more resistance.

Advice to new employees: 

Two comments: one by Charles Frank Bolden, Jr, former administrator of NASA: “Know your stuff. Know yourself. Do the right thing.” One by Howard Grimmett, former director of the NOAA Civil Rights Office: “Take the fight out.”

 

Sheila Stiles

Research Geneticist, NOAA Fisheries; Milford Lab, Connecticut
56 years in service

Sheila Stiles

My passion for my work comes from being able to see the difference I can make and observe in marine organisms through genetics. It’s similar to being a detective and solving a mystery. I am also passionate about sharing knowledge and watching others become excited. I’ve been involved in community engagement and service in a number of programs with outreach, especially with many students and interns over the years. It has been exciting and rewarding.

Genetics has evolved over the years to become more interdisciplinary. For example, science has changed with the development of molecular genetics to advance genetics in breeding agricultural animals and crops. Effects of climate change and ocean acidification are being evaluated from a genetics perspective. Information technology, such as bioinformatics, also has become important in genetics.

I am proud of earning my Ph.D. after many years; staying and persevering with the research; developing a cytology/cytogenetics method; having publications; getting funding from the NOAA Office of Aquaculture; developing a type of striped-shell scallop; appearing in a school science textbook, calendar, magazine and newspaper; receiving awards; and mentoring others.

Advice to new employees: 

Do not give up, and maintain your focus on your goals; believe in yourself, persevere, and give back to make a difference. Do not be deterred.   

 

Michael Kraus

Supervisory Meteorologist, NOAA Research; Boulder, Colorado
53 years in service

Michael Kraus

When I was a child, I was afraid of clouds; a dream involving clouds was a nightmare. I guess I overcompensated for my fear by becoming a meteorologist. I’ve always wanted to work on projects that matter, that help us thrive. When I was in the Air Force, the goal was to use our knowledge of weather to help defeat our enemies. With NOAA, the goal is to help save lives and property from the ravages of weather. 

The major changes I have seen over my career have involved the computing capability that supports science. It used to take much longer to gather and manipulate data, much of it done by hand. Now, computers do it for us.

Fortunately, my career has been relatively free of challenges, other than those presented by the uncertainties associated with research and development projects. I have worked with great people, and always felt part of a team.

Advice to new employees: 

A new employee is expected to be technically competent. How this employee ‘fits in’ becomes the major challenge. I am most proud of the relationships I have with my colleagues. I believe in ‘people first,’ and that it’s important to have the right perspective: work is a part of our life, not our whole life. 

 

Stephen Butler

Electronics technician, National Weather Service; Hilo, Hawaii
52 years in service

Stephen Butler

My passion for my work comes from doing a job I really enjoy and being able to work with good people. The job has changed significantly. Modern day technology has required advancements in skill levels that were unimaginable before. Keeping up to date with advancements is a necessity. 

If there were any challenges to my career, I would have to say it was the many trips to remote locations, such as Wake Island, Johnston Island, and American Samoa. The time I spent at these places meant I wasn’t at home with my family. I do not think you ever overcome something like this; you just adjust to it. What am I most proud of? I would have to say that after 50 years, people are still pleased to have me on the job. 

Advice to new employees: 

My advice to new employees is just to put forth your best efforts. There will be sacrifices you have to make, but in the long run, it will be worth it. 

 

Jerrold Norton

Oceanographer, NOAA Fisheries; Monterey, California
51 years in service

Jerrold Nadler

My passion for my work comes from the bond I feel with the ocean and the realization that after the sun, the ocean is the greatest human resource. Relatively little is known about the ocean and its creatures, but we know that it has given us ALMOST endless resources. I have been fortunate in that I have always been able to find interesting things about the ocean and have been fascinated and interested in every project.

During my career, the instruments used to collect data changed greatly. It is now possible to collect 1,000 or even 100,000 times more data per unit time than when I started in oceanography in 1966. However, the new knowledge and scientific insights derived have not increased at 1,000 times previous rates.

One of the largest problems I have is “looking out the window.” In a scientific setting, it is possible to build abstractions on abstractions. These may be valid, or they may contain serious errors. Ground truth checking is important to validate the product and to make it applicable. It is difficult for managers and policy makers to use information they have difficulty understanding. I have partially overcome the problem of distance from the ocean by making routine observations for the state, other parts of NOAA and pursuing recreational fishing and diving when possible.

Advice to new employees: 

While keeping an eye on public service and education, finish the projects where you have invested time, effort and resources. If possible, make your results known to as many people as possible. If you work in the field, keep a log of what you see and what it might mean. The log will make your experience more valuable if or when you are able to use it.  

*The information contained in this story is valid for at the time of interview. Positions and years of service will not be updated.