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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District News

Employee Spotlight: Kerri Stark

Published Aug. 26, 2014
Kerri Stark is an emergency management specialist for the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Kerri Stark is an emergency management specialist for the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Kerri Stark joined the Tulsa District in 1991 as administrative support with the Tech Management Branch, which eventually combined with Programs Project Management Division. Kerri grew up in Tulsa and graduated from Memorial High School in 1987. Kerri deployed to numerous natural disasters before becoming an emergency management specialist in 2004. She manages the Tulsa District’s Power Team, which provides and generators following natural and man-made disasters. She is an assistant team leader for the Headquarters USACE cadre of assistant team leaders which works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster response teams. Kerri has three children and two grandchildren.

How did you get into Emergency Management?

Back in 1998 there was an email that the Emergency Management office put out asking for deployments or who would volunteer deploy to go to Hurricane Georges in Puerto Rico and my boss at the time, Tom Verdel, he encouraged me to do it and he said, “You’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it.” I went and I was really nervous and I really enjoyed the work. Ever since, anytime Tulsa had something going on I was always volunteering for the emergency operations center or I would throw my name in the hat to deploy to other disasters. In 2004, my current position came open and I applied for it. I really feel that I got into the position that I love.

What is it about Emergency Management that you love?

I enjoy the work, it’s challenging. It’s not the same thing every day but it’s also rewarding to know when we go into disasters, even though the work that I do is office work and I’m not out in the field doing QA work like our team, it’s nice to know that I’m doing is making a difference for people who have been affected. So, if I can just help one person then it makes it totally worth it.

When you go to a disaster site, what do you do?

I work with FEMA, we prepare the mission assignments, and there are a lot of meetings. There are various things we do. We do anything from temporary power to public facilities. We put up firehouses in Joplin. For instance, we were up there and we did two fire stations and eight schools. Then, there is also the debris mission, and we did un-watering during after Katrina and Sandy.

What are some of the disasters you’ve been to?

The first one was Hurricane Georges. I responded to the May 1999 tornados here in Oklahoma. I’ve been to Katrina, Rita, Sandy, the Joplin tornado. The ‘Florida Four’, I did three of those. I went down as a power subject matter expert to Charlie and then I deployed as an action officer with our power team to Ivan and then went on to Gene.

What do you like most about working for the Corps?

There are a lot of things I like. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. I feel like it is a family. It’s been my second family for 22 years. It’s an amazing organization to work for. We do a lot more than people realize.

How did you end up coming for the Corps? My mom worked as an administrative officer for the Engineering & Construction Division. At the time I came to work here, you had to take the civil service examination, and she kept pushing me to do it, and I was undecided on what I wanted to do. I was 19 or 20 years old, didn’t really have a clue. I was just kind of floating around, I guess, and she encouraged me to take that test and I did and when I passed it I submitted my resume to a couple positions here in Tulsa just thinking it’s a long shot but we’ll try this. Burl Ragland hired me. He was my first supervisor and I’ve been here ever since.

What would you say motivates you the most about your work?

Every day is a new day here. Nothing is repetitive. Just the challenge, I’m always trying to find a way to do things better. We’ve got a lot of processes in place but I’m always trying to find a way to do things more efficient.

Of all the disasters you’ve worked on, is there one that sticks out or that affected you more than the others?

I’ve thought about that and Katrina was probably the worst one that I had ever seen but the two that affected me, actually three, were the two tornados in Oklahoma last year and then Joplin because they were so close to home. These are our neighbors. I didn’t know anyone personally but I have friends who have relatives.

When you are going to a disaster do you notice anything around you or is there a sort of filter through the lens?

Sometimes I go before a storm, so I don’t really notice what’s going on around me because I’m focused on the missions we are preparing to do after, trying to get people out the door, trying to get the generators ready to go so that when they come into the facilities, they have that temporary power. At the same time, I’m looking at the damage reports on TV, or I hear about stuff and my heart is breaking. So, I don’t put a blind eye to any of it.