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Two 50-Year Veterans Celebrate Golden Anniversary With GSA

GSA#9592

July 1, 1999
Contact: Peg Strain (202) 501-1231

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When President Harry S. Truman signed the order establishing the General Services Administration, World War II veteran Rosamond Cardreon had already left his post as first sergeant with an Army paratrooper division. Nancy Potter was a mere Sweet 16, earning money for college and helping support her family by typing and filing at the GSA's predecessor agency in Washington.

At loose ends in California, Cardreon was seeking his niche in post-war America. He accepted a "temporary" 30-day stint with the fledgling agency as a laborer who unloaded rail cars.

But he stayed half a century. So did she.

The two were honored today for serving the GSA from the first day the agency opened its doors on that same date in 1949. The 50th anniversary birthday bash is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. in the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The celebration will recognize an agency whose divergent mission is sometimes challenging to explain for the casual visitor to its 18th and F street Central Office. But nonetheless, the GSA is critical to the operation of the federal government.

Often with only a behind-the-scenes presence, the agency performs crucial support that is the underpinning of U.S. government. Established as a central federal procurement and property management agency, the GSA was created in 1949 primarily to save taxpayers' money. But though the agency doesn't have a glitzy profile, it has had a lasting impact upon the country. It has consistently provided a steadfast wind beneath the wings to uplift the federal government infrastructure.

The GSA is the federal landlord, providing workspace for federal agencies and one-stop shopping for products and services from paperclips to state-of-the-art telecommunications at bargain basement prices. Its widely-varied mission encompasses caring for monuments to paperclip minutia. The agency provides telecommunications for those with hearing or speech disabilities to allowing customers to ship used carpet to be re-tooled at half the price of new carpet. When there is a natural catastrophe anywhere across the country, GSA dispatches an emergency response team to disaster sites often before even the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrives.

"Think of GSA as the world's biggest Wal-Mart," quipped one agency intimate.

But in an era in which the average American worker typically hopscotchs from one job to another every three to five years, longtime agency loyalists Cardreon and Potter are a cusp-of-the-millennium anomaly. Their century sum of service is a skyward blip on the U.S. employment demographics screen. Downsizing and the decline of corporate loyalty in recent years have fashioned a very different work world than the one these two embarked upon back on the far side of the 1950s.

Not many people can say they stayed with the same organization for 20 years and very few for 50 years. Concerning his longevity Cardreon says: "It's been a joy. I have enjoyed every minute of it. It's the pleasure I get from the job. That is what I'm about. People ask for me. You're like a Santa Claus," he says of his equipment supply work. "I got to know people and people got to know me," says "Rosey," as he is affectionately known to his co-workers and GSA customers -- other federal agencies.

Nancy Potter began as a clerk with the GSA's predecessor, the Federal Works Agency, where she cranked out forms and letters on a heavy old (manual of course) Remington typewriter. These days you can't find such a dated piece of equipment in her office in the GSA's central headquarters at 18th and F streets in downtown Washington. But you can always find Nancy Potter. She comes in early and stays late. Those dedicated hours evidence themselves on the walls of her office where they have been translated into certificates and momentos that testify to half a century faithful government service.

She is deputy director of budget for the GSA and the now high-tech tools of her trade are a Dell 486 and Lotus Notes, to mention but two. She works with a staff of 25 people and House and Senate staffers and the Office of Management and Budget examiners in efforts to continually improve GSA's financial management.

"She is one of the most capable people I have ever known. She is unfailingly accurate, hard working and knowledgeable. If we could clone Nancy, we would. There would be 50 more just like her. She is well respected up here. She is the touchstone for all vital information. We need her. We love her," said Susan Brita, a Democratic staff director for the transportation committee subcommittee on public buildings.

Looking back at a lifetime of memories with the agency whose life span parallels her adult career experience, Potter says of the agency, "I think we have done very well." Through the years, time and again, she has done "whatever it takes," according to one framed accolade on her office wall. She is proud of the agency's initiatives in encouraging participation of small, minority and women-run businesses, and its leadership in childcare since GSA is the largest provider of child care centers for the civilian "federal family." The GSA has always been a "warm" agency toward people, she says.

"I had other job offers, but the customers felt I was making a difference." So she stayed.

"I went to college and applied myself," she says with a spirit of determination concerning her success in government. She earned a business degree at George Washington University in 1963 and kept winning promotions at the agency. She is particularly proud she has mentored dozens of interns at the GSA. Chatting with her, one receives the impression she is just as bent on the notion of making a contribution toward good government as the day she took the federal oath of office 50 years ago.

In Bell, CA, about five miles east of Los Angeles, Rosamond Cardreon is officially classified as a "utilization officer." That means he manages government property for redistribution, sale or donation. Rosey achieved that position on the heels of being a warehouseman, chief of the shipping department, assistant manager and supply officer.

Even amid the bureaucracy, especially amid the bureaucracy, Rosey gives sound business advice: "You have to treat a person like you like being treated. Go out of your way to do things for them and give them a kind word."

His supervisor, Patrick Lamb, GSA chief of field and customer support in San Francisco, put it another way: "At this point in his career, he is not motivated by money or promotions, but by satisfying the people he deals with. He's personable. He's a gentleman and a gentle man. He likes to help people."

Rosey is the epitome of a "nice fellow." He also runs 10 miles and lifts weights five days a week. He will be in Washington for the July 1 GSA celebration, but says he hasn't given retirement any particular thought. "Maybe one of these days, I'll just hang it up," he says offhandedly. But for now Rosey and Nancy Potter both say they are still fulfilled by the patriotic partnership each forged with the agency five decades ago. Nancy has fond recollections of her years in Washington. Several times when he was in office, she saw Truman, whom she characterized as "an honest and sincere President."

She is endearingly referred to as "The Young Lady" by her cross-continent, five-decade co-worker. Indeed, she was a young woman when President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Just before she heard the news, she remembers walking down 18th Street to the GSA building, the first-ever modern, steel frame federal office building. "The street was quiet. It was sort of eerie, and when we got in the building, we discovered what had happened."

Her historical perspective about the GSA is just as keen because she has been there from its birth. She's the institutional memory everyone consults. She has seen the agency go from stack upon stack of wide, manually-entered spreadsheets to computerized financial programs; from fledgling organization to sweeping bureaucracy and then pared down to today's leaner, more competitive and nimble operation. "Our leadership has permitted us to be innovators. We have become a strong policy arm of government. We build on the past but always look to the future and where we are headed. We're looking for better, cheaper, quicker and faster ways to do things."