Human Capital

Recipients of the 2011 Excellence In Leadership Award

William R. Guertal and Robert R. Holmes

In recognition of their outstanding acts, services, and achievements that exemplify and support the USGS leadership goals throughout the Bureau.

Honor awards will be presented at U.S. Geological Survey's Honor Awards Ceremony in Reston, Virginia, and at the Tri-agency meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 25, 2011.

Excellence in Leadership Award


William R. Guertal

Indiana and Kentucky Water Science Centers
Indianapolis, IN

Dr. William "Bill" Guertal currently serves as the Director of the Indiana and Kentucky Water Science Centers. Bill has shown extraordinary leadership within the USGS, as evidenced by his accomplishments over the last two years.

Leadership Principles. Bill demonstrates the USGS Guiding Principles every day in his unprecedented leadership of two USGS Water Science Centers. His ability to bring out the best in his staff is demonstrated by the success of both Water Science Centers in building strong science programs and developing Centers of Excellence in technical fields including flood science, agricultural effects upon the water resource, mercury in the environment, and hydrologic monitoring networks. Under Bill, the Centers have grown record size hydrologic observation networks and water science interpretive programs. The above achievements and those listed below would not have been possible without Bill and efforts of those he inspires every day through his adherence to the USGS Guiding Principles.

Interpersonal Skills. Very simply, Bill knows how to bring out the best in people – be it his staff, his USGS peers, or partners from other agencies. He challenges, encourages, and celebrates the success of those he works with. Because of this Bill is often called upon to serve on USGS leadership teams – the most recent example being a high-level team to look at the disbursement of USGS Cooperative Water Program funds.

Cooperative Working Relationships. Bill's leadership has built a working relationship and business model for both the Indiana and Kentucky Centers that has developed into the "Indiana-Kentucky Commonwealth" concept which may serve as a model for building efficiencies in the field as well as providing a higher quality of science services to USGS customers. Bill has led a "grass-roots" USGS flood inundation mapping science initiative – "FIMI" – that has evolved from a USGS effort between several Centers, to an Area, then Regional, and now to a National multi-agency initiative. To do this he has built a multi-disciplinary coalition of USGS scientists from Centers across the country, and partners from the National Weather Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Federal Emergency Management Agency. Because of his leadership with FIMI, Bill has been invited to speak about the initiative to high-level groups including congressional representatives, National science associations, the USGS Executive Leadership Team and Director, and the President's National Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction. With FIMI, Bill has built a shared vision of national flood inundation mapping science that has been embraced by the USGS and other Federal agencies and that will likely culminate in an Interagency Water Resources Science Services (IWRSS) effort.

Continual Learning. Bill could not have achieved his successes with operating two water science centers, overseeing a national initiative, and working on his many USGS teams without keeping abreast of the most relevant water science issues as well as USGS business practices and leadership and management principles.

Problem Solving. Bill, through his leadership of the Commonwealth and through his leadership through FIMI has manifested a vision to provide high-level science despite the continuing problems of funding and resources limitations.

Organizational Change. The USGS Indiana-Kentucky Water Science Center Commonwealth model allows the two offices to more effectively share resources and staffing to address problems common to both states, while still maintaining a strong focus on issues specific to each state individually. The Commonwealth concept will improve the level of service the USGS provides to Indiana and Kentucky and at the same time will increase efficiencies by having a Director and other support staff shared by both Centers. To achieve this potential, Bill has engaged his staff to work on a broad vision for a workforce plan for the Commonwealth.

Customer Service. Bill has encouraged his Commonwealth management and technical staff to become involved in many National, State, and local groups and teams and thus the Kentucky and Indiana Centers are recognized leaders in both water resources communities. In the past two years, Bill's staff has served on National level committees including the Water SSPT. He has demonstrated time and time again that he wants his staff to seek every opportunity for professional growth and service to the USGS.


Excellence in Leadership Award


Robert Holmes
National Flood Hazard Coordinator

Water Mission Area
Rolla, MO

Robert R. (Bob) Holmes has and continues to consistently demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities in his role as the National Flood Hazard Coordinator for the Water Mission Area. These qualities are reflected best in his work before, during, and after major floods where regional or national coordination is critical to a successful USGS mission. For example, during the widespread flooding in the Red, Mississippi, and Missouri River Basins in 2011, Bob led the charge, galvanizing all who were involved through personal example, exercised shared consultative but decisive decision making, and showed deep respect for individual efforts and the institutional values that are the hallmarks of the USGS. The resulting esprit de corps powered USGS staff from multiple Science Centers through long, arduous days and weeks, extreme weather, and challenging field conditions and is a testament to Bob's leadership effectiveness, organizational talent, and exemplary personal qualities.

During these flood events, Bob demonstrated USGS leadership principles daily. He worked long hours, often accompanying field measurement crews in river boats through the night to guide and encourage them and show personal commitment, meeting through the day with officials from the Corps of Engineers, the National Weather Service, and with various state and local governments to learn about their needs, inform them of USGS activities, and provide sound science for crucially important flood-fighting activities, river forecasts, and emergency operations. Through it all, Bob organized USGS field activities through highly effective conference calls with sometimes 20 or more staff from multiple USGS Centers. He patiently allowed them to communicate their activities and needs and promoted bureauwide collaboration. Bob encouraged the Centers to maintain their focus even though they may have already been weary from several consecutive days of long hours in the field. His interpersonal skills shined during these calls as he listened to the needs of the participants and developed solutions or arranged for delivery of resources. Bob was respectful and positive and always remained accountable for his statements and actions.

The USGS response to these flood events would not have been as successful without the cooperative working relationships that Bob inspired among all who were involved in the effort. Serving as the focal point, he discouraged short-sighted, state-based activities and encouraged a USGS team approach to acquire data urgently needed for flood forecasts and reservoir and levee operations, including information needed to time the emergency breaching of the Bird Point Levee and the Morganza Floodway.

Time and again and with little time to react, Bob made sound technical and logistical decisions and exercised excellent judgment. His problem-solving skills were especially evident when he was confronted with field situations that had never before been encountered as a result of the flood magnitudes and durations that occurred in 2011. His ability to develop creative solutions was an essential part of the USGS success.

During the flood-response effort, Bob's words and actions focused on two main goals for the USGS: ensure that USGS activities maintained the technical competence and impartiality for which the USGS is well known, and meet as many of the cooperating agencies' needs as possible within a timeframe that allowed them to fulfill their missions. Bob used his political savvy to communicate effectively with these partners during a stressful time, determine their needs, and develop a plan to manage USGS resources to deliver the type of data they needed when or before they needed it. He established or encouraged the use of existing communication resources to create a continual link between the USGS and other federal and state agencies that are dependent on USGS data.

In short, a major reason that the response went beyond adequate and received many accolades from our customers was the effort and leadership qualities that Bob Holmes brought to the table as the USGS National Flood Hazard Coordinator. For this effort, Bob Holmes has certainly qualified to receive the USGS 2011 Excellence in Leadership Award.

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Sandy Bruner

Leadership Development Program Manager
Office of Employee Development
Phone: 703-648-5764

Kim Miller

Mentoring Program Manager
Office of Employee Development
Phone: 304-743-5429