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Member of the Week: Amanda Blount

As we like to say at GovLoop, Amanda Blount is awesome. There’s just no other way to say it. That’s why I am proud to feature Amanda as GovLoop Member of the Week. She really is a GovLooper extraordinaire. You’ll see her commenting on blog posts and forums and groups and she greets new members…and I could go on and on. But it’s not what she does around the community that makes her awesome. It’s the fact that she tells her Mom that she loves her on her voicemail and exudes joy in almost every activity. If you’ve interacted with her here or in person, you know what I’m talking about – she’s an incredibly sweet person and a dedicated civil servant. Check out my interview with her below.

1. What’s your path to public service? How did you get into government?

I don’t think I had much choice when it came to working for the Government. My family can trace its involvement in Government and Public service back at least 400 years. This includes Government service in England in the 1600s. In the United States, my distant Uncle, William Blount signed The US Constitution for the state of North Carolina. He was the first, and only, Governor of the Southwest Territory, and served as a Democratic-Republican Senator from TN. He then was the first U.S. Senator who was expelled from the Senate, and the only Senator expelled outside of the Civil War. He was also the first person to ever be impeached under the new Constitution he had just recently signed. However, as turn of events do happen, in 1798 he became a TN State Senator, and then rose to the speakership position. In the young US Government, he was one of the original politicians with a huge rebel side. His half brother (my other Uncle), Willie Blount, became the Governor of TN and during the War of 1812 he led the initiative to raise over thirty-seven thousand dollars in funds and two thousand volunteer soldiers, a response which earned Tennessee the nickname the “Volunteer State.” Capt. James Blount, my Great Grandfather many times over, played a part in local politics before, during, and after Culpeper’s Rebellion against the Colonial Government for improper taxation and Navigation Acts.

He was a member of the Council in 1672, and in 1677 was one of the eighteen members chosen for the rebellious “Parliament.” He was listed as a member of the General Assembly in 1679.

There are many more great examples of my relative’s involvement in Government, but it has been the more recent generations that kept the involvement alive. My Grandfather served heroically in WW1 and earned war medals from the American and French Governments. My Great-Grandfather, Grandfather, father, mother,
sisters, and brother-in-laws have all been involved in various levels of Government and local service. In addition, many of my relatives have served in different branches of the military services. Presently, my mother still carries on the public service tradition by volunteering for many organizations: recently winning several awards for her volunteer work and her service as a past President for the Lions Club in NC.

With such a background involved in Government and Public Service, when I was old enough, it was my turn to carry on the Government tradition. I joined the US Army at 19. I presently am in the TN Army National Guard, and I work for the Dept. of the Army full time. I love working for the Government. As much as people do not believe it, a little rebellious spirit is welcome in the Government workplace. Yes, there are issues in the Government, and we all get a little restless at times, but no one can tell me of a place that does not have some issues that need changing. I adore where I work and the people I work with. As a footnote; my Son wants to work for the Government when he graduates college, and my daughter not only is keeping the door open for
Government work, but she is dating a young man who works for the Dept. of the Navy. The future of Government service in our family is looking good.

2. Who would you consider a mentor in your career?

I think it is important not to forget those who have helped you get where you are today. I don’t see my career being guided by just one mentor, but there have been a few people, who during important points of my life, were there when I needed them most. It may seem a little sappy to let people know how you feel, but, it is good to remember the people who have believed in you most. Plus, I like to give credit where credit is due. I can honestly say I would not be doing what I am doing, or know what I know, if these people had not been in my life at various times. Over the last 7 years, COL Andrew Hardin, COL Ronald Herrington, COL Manybears Grinder, LTC Samuel Beard, CW5 Robert Church, and Mr. Doug Yates have all trusted me when needed, forgiven my many mistakes, supported my new, and sometimes crazy, ideas, acted as friends when needed, and they have all kindly pushed me back on track when I have strayed. I could not have asked for a better group of people to work for over the years.

3. What are you up to these days in terms of work?

Our office motto is, “Contracting as fast as I can” and it is something we are steadily doing. Right now, I am helping train a new Contract Specialist, I just started assisting with the Wide Area Work Flow (WAWF) and General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS) programs, and I am still “Contracting as fast as I can”.

4. You’ve been taking a lot of training lately – what are you working toward?

I am working toward three main goals; 1) Level 3 in Contracting, 2) my Graduate degree in Project Management, and 3) my Master Certifications in both Contracting and in Emergency and Disaster Management. After that, I may sleep for about a year.

5. You’ve been such a Rockstar Community Leader…in just a couple weeks, you’ve greeted hundreds of people. Tell us more about your activities, your goals and results so far.

I believe in the use of GOV 2.0 tools. I would like to see a diverse group of people become more involved.Every time I reach out to new members, I try to make them feel comfortable when using new social media tools. I hope that the more government employees we can get comfortable with the new tools, the more they will take it back to their agencies and encourage others to do the same.

I consider social media akin to an intellectual commune, so, my participation in GovLoop discussions comes from my belief that social media, and 2.0 tools, will work better when users contribute as much knowledge as they take away. This is the only way an information network can grow.

I am also a big proponent of great Government Purchase Card (GPC) programs. I have noticed these programs, in many agencies tend to get pushed to the side as an extra duty. However, that is a serious mistake. If someone told you they were in charge of a 15 million dollar a year program with a 275-member team (which is small for some agencies), most people would be impressed. But, the GPC program, typically is a additional duty which no one wants. The saying, “The devil is in the details” applies more to the GPC program then most people realize. If agencies can’t be trusted with the importance of the funds dedicated to the GPC programs, then how will the Tax Payers trust us with billion dollar contract with less annual transactions?

News agencies can obtain information about GPC transactions easier than regular contract information, so, if agencies are not minding the GPC programs, the Government will end up looking like we are not doing our jobs. If agencies are not watching the pennies, then who is watching the taxpayer’s dollar? I have created a GPC group on GovLoop. It is for anyone who wants to make his or her program as stellar as possible. I will gladly help you in any way I can. Together, we can make a difference in your programs.

6. I see you’re really active in CFC. How did you get involved and what’s worked for getting people to give?

I was standing in formation in Germany back in 1988; the Platoon Sergeant asked who had any fundraising experience. Since I had raised money back in high school for various organizations, I raised my hand. At that point, I started my future involvement with CFC. In my next unit, the Platoon Sergeant asked us directly if anyone had any CFC experience. I again raised me hand, and again I was in charge of the CFC drive at the unit level. I have been involved with CFC 5 times in my career, and my responsibilities have grown each time. I am proud to say I am now on the Local Executive Board for the CFC Campaign.

A positive attitude and communication is the key to donations. I make sure everyone knows how they can give, where their donations are going, and how those donations can affect them personally. I work closely with my leaders to gain approval for all proposed activities. We plan fun activities, which increase funds, but do not interfere too much with the accomplishment of normal work. Some ideas we have used in the past are; civilian clothes day for the soldiers, or dress down day for the civilians ($5 dollars per day), office bake sales, Halloween costume contest, and office fund raiser competition. There are many other great things we have
done to raise funds, but the main three things anyone can do to gain maximum participation is to smile, communicate, and say thank you.

7. Where is Clarksville, TN…and got any tips for accidental tourists?

There is a very great possibility GovLoop members might end up near Clarksville TN. Clarksville, TN, is 45 minutes north of Nashville, and is directly south of FT Campbell. We are also located near some of the offices of TVA and the Forestry Department. Of course, if someone ends up in Clarksville, TN, they have come to the perfect place to make base camp. From here, a person can go south to Nashville and visit all the Country Music areas, or go North to visit the Land between the Lakes Park.

Nevertheless, Clarksville has many of our own great things to do right here. Living up to the tag line of, “Clarksville – Gateway to the New South”, the city is pointing this town to the future with incredible speed. Rivers & Spires is an award-winning FREE festival with live music, interactive entertainment, activities for the kids and great food held in historic downtown Clarksville, TN.

I am happy to say I was involved with the very first Rivers & Spires festival in 2003. Now people from all over the world come to visit Clarksville during the festival. Let’s not forget the great winery we have here in Clarksville. They also sponsor Jazz on the Lawn every other weekend during the summer! There is even more money flowing in Clarksville, TN. In just a few years, we are going to have an incredible marina and shopping area. Are you looking for a high tech position? Then Clarksville, TN has what you need. Hemlock Corporation has set up shop in our little area. I am very proud of my adopted town and the work the Chamber of Commerce has done to make this town a bright spot in the recession. Housing has remained steady, and high tech jobs are coming our way. Also, we have a great 4 year college with new programs being offered every year. I have included links to many of the places I just named.

If you decide you want to take a vacation or relocate, Clarksville, TN is the place to be!


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Andrea Schneider

Congratulations. A very nice interview. What is the CPC program?
Your history is so interesting and gives a long view on government service.

Amanda Blount

@Peter – Thank you!

@Andrea – Thank you for your comments. The GPC Program is the Government Purchase Card program. I oversaw our program for some time, and now I volunteer to help anyone who needs help getting their programs back on track. As for the long view… I do hope my kids carry on the tradition. 🙂

@ Janet – Isn’t it the coolest thing to be able to compare how things have changed from generation to generation? Businesses come and go, but Government work has been around for a very long time! 🙂

Amanda Blount

@Andrea – I just read what I wrote last night. I must have been tired, because I really did not answer your question. The GPC Program is how the Government Agencies purchase items under the micro purchase limit. A contract is not needed when something is under this value. The values are $3,000 for supplies, $2,500 for services, and $2,000 for construction. It is a program which has grown HUGE over the last 30 plus years and it is full of problems, which can be fixed, with hard work.

steve davies

A fantastic interview Amanda. It really highlights the value of Govloop and social media as a means of putting a human face to gov.