Natural environment

For EPA’s Travers, good government is the family business

Working for the government is a family tradition for Linda Travers. Her grandfather, father, sister, aunts and uncles, and one of her children are all present or former government employees.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Travers has been with the Environmental Protection Agency since its inception in 1970.

Last year she was appointed deputy CIO, the highest-ranking career position in the agency.

Despite offers to go elsewhere, Travers has chosen to stay at EPA to continue to do work associated with the environment. Her career has taken her through various EPA offices where she has been instrumental in shaping key agency IT and information management programs, “all of which have benefited from her leadership,” said EPA CIO Kim Nelson.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Travers led the effort to determine the agency’s core infrastructure and IT and management needs to ensure continuity of operations. She was instrumental in the design and development of EPA’s state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center, which went from concept to completion in less than six months, came in under budget and has been widely acknowledged throughout government, Nelson said.

Outreach is critical

Travers’ outreach to other federal agencies during the development process was critical in ensuring that EPA had the most up-to-date information to support its emergency response program, Nelson said.

That approach—breaking down internal barriers and effectively working with other agencies—also has marked her work on e-government and the President’s Management Agenda, Nelson said.

Travers led the restructuring of EPA’s IT investment management board from an information-sharing group to a strategic planning and oversight body. In her lead role at the Office of Environmental Information, Travers has institutionalized EPA’s core enterprise architecture through the Portal Development Board.

“Linda Travers’ outstanding leadership, strategic thinking, creativity, open communication style and ability to handle a wide breadth of responsibility have led to path-breaking improvements and innovation in the Office of Environmental Information and the agency,” Nelson said.

For Travers, “it’s really important to be results-oriented, and people have to see you as someone who accomplishes things.” She also finds it important to listen to all points of view. “And you never discard any good idea,” she said.

A focus on results has guided her through her career. “There’s no challenge or hurdle I don’t think I can’t get over,” she said.

She also encourages employees to stretch themselves and to try things they might not have done before. “I have a personal policy that you learn from your mistakes, so it’s OK to stretch yourself and make some mistakes and recognize that you’re going to trip. So just pick yourself up and move on,” she said.

Travers has long had a knack for cross-agency collaboration. Early in her career, she developed an information system associated with the Toxic Release Inventory—the first federal program that required information to be publicly accessible electronically. It was environmental information at the community level, letting people know about air and water quality and waste emissions in their area.

Creative thinking

That was in the Olden Days—before the Internet. “We had to make some quick de- cisions about how to make [the information] available,” she said.

EPA partnered with the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, which at that time had some electronic systems for the nation’s public and university libraries. EPA made the information available for a reasonable price.

She also worked with the Government Printing Office to develop CDs with the information, and with the nation’s library system to get the CDs distributed to some 3,500 libraries. At the time the law was passed in 1986, 20,000 companies had to report their emissions information for about 300 chemicals. The program is still active.

“The fact that we built the database and put the data out in a short period of time is something I’m very proud of. It was not years, but about 18 months from the time the statute was passed and EPA got the first data out,” Travers said.

Now she’s further aligning the work of the agency with environmental stewardship in a recent initiative, the Federal Electronics Challenge.

The goal is to make certain that discarded EPA equipment is recycled or reused, Travers said. The most important piece is making acquisition of green products a part of agency contracts.

“If we put it in a contract,” Travers said, “We can effect change.”

About the Author

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