By Chuck Walker
MOBILE, Ala. – In sports and business it is often hard being the one to replace a person of prominence, whether it be a long-time coach or popular employee.
The challenge comes from being able to establish your own way of doing things, but making the transition a smooth one, not only for your customers, but for your employees and staff members.
Ashley Leflore, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District’s Emergency Management chief, is one person here in the District who is meeting this challenge firsthand.
Leflore, who has worked for USACE the past 12 years and in Mobile the last eight, recently took over emergency management from Hubert “Bo” Ansley. Leflore said the transition into the chief’s chair has been a smooth one, thanks to the mentorship that Ansley provided.
“Bo was iconic in emergency management,” Leflore said. “Everyone across the enterprise knew him and his successes. But something else he did well was provide me the opportunity to establish myself and my work among the broader enterprise of EM Community of Practice as well. The challenging part of the transition was that I had to say goodbye to such a great leader and mentor. I am excited to be serving the District in this new role and I have the best team in the enterprise.”
The emergency management team, which includes Dehyrl Middleton and Callie Russell, has already been hard at work since Leflore took over. The team has deployed more than 50 people to support various response missions across the country, including Hurricane Ian which devastated southwest Florida in late September.
“I’ve enjoyed stepping into the leadership role,” Leflore said. “It was challenging at first because the transition occurred during hurricane season and I didn’t have a permanent staff. But now I have a solid team I can trust and empower, which is everything. We’ve already accomplished great things together. All three of us have deployed ourselves to support multiple response and recovery missions.”
One team member who can attest to how smooth the transition has gone is Middleton. Middleton said the encouragement Leflore provides makes his job a pleasurable one.
“Working with and for Ms. Leflore has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had with leadership in the Corps of Engineers,” Middleton said. “She not only provides leadership skills but allows me to expand my knowledge and expertise in the EM community with full support. The transition from Bo to Ashley was seamless. This was not surprising as Ashley has 12 years of experience in EM with USACE and worked for years under Bo himself.”
Nelson Sanchez, USACE Mobile District’s Chief of Operations, said that Leflore has taken what she has learned and her experiences and has EM prepared for an outstanding future.
“In April, Ashley became our new chief of emergency management and worked very close with the past chief, Hubert Ansley, to assure we had a smooth transition when he retired,” Sanchez said. “She took those lessons learned and improved them with the new team she has put together for the future. Her flexibility to adapt to change is outstanding. She is well organized and has great leadership qualities to be able to manage many tasks from hurricane responses to preparing exercises and training to get the District prepared for any disaster we may be facing in the future.”
Leflore said her advice to anyone who might be considering USACE and emergency management for their career is to consider the positive impact you can have on those who have suffered in a tragedy.
“USACE has been incredible to me and my family,” Leflore said. “I can’t imagine what other agency or company would have provided me with the opportunities I’ve had for the last 12 years. Emergency Management is incredibly rewarding, but it isn’t easy. During or after a disaster, we work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to meet the demands of the missions, leadership, and our partners. But, when our mission is complete, it is an incredible feeling to know that you’ve contributed to the impacted communities recovering from devastation. That is why I chose this line of work decades ago, and it has been nothing but fulfilling since.”
Leflore said that the one thing she hopes to provide her team as they move forward is to provide them the same guidance she was given in her career and that she is already pleased with their achievements.
“I hope to provide my team with all of the opportunities I have been given,” Leflore said. “I’m already so proud of them and the things they’ve accomplished. I can’t wait to see what else they will do. I love being innovative with them and determining how we can best prepare the Mobile District to be ready to respond to anything that comes our way, in the most efficient way.”