By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer
On November 14, 2023, Trona High School alumni from the Class of 1982 Shirley Krebbs Reed was chosen by President Joe Biden and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to be a recipient of the 2023 Presidential Rank Awards.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said, “The Presidential Rank Awards highlight public servants who exemplify integrity, exceptional leadership, and a relentless commitment to the American people.
Congratulations to all the awardees. The federal government and the American people are safer and better off thanks to your hard work and dedication.”
Reed humbly attributes her success to luck. Perhaps it was luck that got her started on this path, but it appears that hard work and perseverance were also at play.
Reed has worked for the Department of Defense for 38 years. She was living in Sacramento as a young woman figuring out life, “I didn’t have anybody paying for my college or anything like that.” Then, a friend invited her along to take the civil service exam. She replied, “I don’t even know what that is, but okay, I’ll go with you.” Reed was hired, but her friend wasn’t. She began her career journey by earning a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in acquisitions administration while she was working.
She tells us, “I did start my career at the very bottom as a GS3; you don’t get much lower than that, and I made it to a senior executive.” She attributes living in Trona to her success. “I credit Trona for making me tougher and stronger. I can meet other people, get along, and assimilate myself into groups. I think in Trona, you learn that if you could live in that environment, the desert, and everything that comes along with it, you can make it anywhere.
“My friends from Trona, the long friendships that I have, really ground me. They’re my biggest supporters and advocates and so I’m so thankful for the experience I had growing up there.” Her core of Trona friends get together a few times a year, most recently in Mexico. The friends travel from Ohio, Colorado, Texas, parts of California, and Oregon.
Reed also appreciates the teachers in Trona, “Miss Shoaf was my sixth-grade teacher (see Remembering Martha Shoaf, News Review 10/6/23). The Spences were very impactful in my life and other teachers as well.”
Reed moved to Trona when she was in the sixth grade and was active as a cheerleader and was Student Body President. “I’ve run across people who actually know where Trona is, especially the Air Force pilots.” When asked where she was from, she would reply, “I’m from this small town in California that you’ve never heard of.” They would reply that they knew where Trona was because they used to shoot the Trona Gap through the Panamint Range.
Reed’s job title is Director of Emerging Capabilities and Systems. Receiving the award was not a slam dunk once she was nominated. Reed calls it a “rigorous process,” which started in February. “You write a package about all your accomplishments. It’s a capitalization of the things that you’ve done as an executive in the department that might merit an award. The package then goes to several boards inside the government and then outside the government. Then, once you make it through those series of panels, it goes through a fourth estate panel. It goes through the Office of Personnel Management panel, extra panels that are made up of a public representation that reviews them, and then, similar to any elected office, you have to release your tax return and make sure that there isn’t anything that would be an embarrassment to the President. And they do another background check on you even though we already have security clearances.”
The press release announcing her award lists many accomplishments. We asked her to name two: which is she most proud of and which was the most challenging.
“The most challenging one was when I saved a program from cancellation. Congress was getting ready to cancel it after they’d already invested $500 million into this program. We were able to save it from cancellation successfully. It’s deployed across the Air Force.” She was a new executive at the time of that project.
“One that I really am proud of is a more recent accomplishment. We were looking at upscaling our IT staff. I had done some research and came across a company that was originally created at Stanford University called Work Era, which has an assessment tool for data analytics and artificial intelligence and all things digital.” Basically, they assess what workers already know so they can obtain training in areas they do not know. Reed tells us that from there,” “you’re able to define a path for education in those areas.”
Reed tells us, “If some kid from Trona reads this, they can maybe realize that there are possibilities for everyone coming out of Trona no matter what your situation is.”