She does her job so well they didn’t give her one award, they gave her two.
But before you pat her on the back, Linda Sue Schwarz says all of the accomplishments are due to her staff that handles everything from paint on the wall, snow removal, wiring and a host of other things most people don’t think about.
Schwarz is Facility Management division manager at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was named one of the five best engineers in the Department of Veterans Affairs in the chief engineer category. Then she was named top engineer from the five.
“This is a division award,” she said. “Every day, I work with professional and talented staff who work hard to ensure the medical center remains operational. Every day is different, sometimes challenging, many times very rewarding. From seeing the internal multi-disciplined construction work completed by staff, to leading the way with ArcGIS upgrading of drawings, to innovative maintenance, to construction management such as the new parking and Simulation Lab, to staff stepping up due to personnel shortages, the people in the division are the best part of the job. Never underestimate the importance of engineers!”
That staff includes 135 employees who work around the clock taking care of the buildings, the grounds, and the bricks and mortar that are the Milwaukee VA.
“Skills that are off the charts”
“We have five maintenance shops. We have the carpenters, the plasterers, the plumbers, the electricians and pipe fitters and we have a preventative maintenance staff,” Schwarz said, ticking off some of the long list of people who make up Facility Management. “We have grounds and transportation, the grass cutting, the snow shoveling. We maintain the boiler plant, the chiller plant, all the new construction, the parking structure, all the maintenance purchasing all repair parts.”
But it takes someone who can take all of that and make it work in sync. That’s what sets her apart, said Ken Dantoin, facility energy manager. “She is exceptional and has administrative skills that are literally off the charts,” he said. “First, you have to understand the breadth of what we deal with, and she has a high sense of attention to detail. If you don’t have that, the big jobs don’t get done.”
Schwarz’s professional background includes work in the private sector as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning engineer. A 27-year Veteran of the Army Reserve, she recently retired as a lieutenant colonel engineering officer.
Important Role in Delivering Safe Health Care to Veterans
Ed Litvin, director of VA’s Office of Capital Asset Management and Engineering Support, adds that “The VA Engineer of the Year Award is a great recognition of the contributions of more than 1,500 engineers throughout VA. For an engineer in VHA to be selected for this honor is truly special as this recognizes the role that professional engineers such as Linda Sue have in the daily operations of our medical centers in delivering safe and quality health care to our nation’s Veterans.”
Besides the people, it’s how they talk to one another. Schwarz credits much of the success in the division to the creation of integrated design teams. Before, carpenters, electricians and other departments would independently work on projects. Now they work in tandem, consulting and communicating amongst each other, creating a more efficient process. This all adds up to better service to her customers.
Schwarz sent this note to her staff: “I want to thank you for everything everyone does every day to maintain the campus which ensures the medical center can provide high quality health care to Veterans and their families which is exemplified by the our vision statement: To skillfully maintain and improve the campus environment fostering excellent health care for Veterans.”
Engineers that work in VHA touch the broad range of medical center operations and delivery of quality health care to our nation’s Veterans. On a daily basis these individuals manage and maintain the physical plant of our medical centers and keep the utilities operational, manage and maintain medical equipment and instrumentation systems, manage and administer construction activities, and they are involved in the safety of patients, staff and visitors at our medical centers.
About the author: This story was submitted by Nathan Wallin, a public affairs specialist at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee.