Mary Simonson Logistics Program Coordinator and Contracting Officer Federal Aviation Administration Oberlin, Ohio By Sarah Gray “It is amazing to watch the employees overcome disabilities and perform in the workplace,” stated this month’s AbilityOne champion, Mary Simonson. “Each one specializes in certain types of cleaning. Some are better at sweeping, washing floors, dusting – others have a complete knowledge of the entire facility and how it should be handled.” Simonson has been with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for 20 years. She started as a secretary for the Training Department in the Air Traffic Division, and made her way up to AF Manager’s secretary, then Administrative Officer, Logistics Management Specialist, and then to her current position, Logistics Program Coordinator- Contracting Officer. In this position, Simonson handles acquisitions for all of Ohio and Eastern Michigan. This includes soliciting and awarding service and construction projects. Simonson first heard about the AbilityOne (then JWOD) Program in 1992, when nonprofit agency Murray Ridge Production Center, Inc. (Elyria, Ohio) took over a janitorial contact at the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Center in Cleveland, Ohio. At the time, Simonson was in a supporting role to the Contracting Officer and provided support to the staff of Murray Ridge as they adjusted to their new contract. She got to know the employees and was impressed with the quality of service. In 1998, she took on a new job as a contracting officer and moved to a new office. While she did not see the Murray Ridge employees on a daily basis anymore, she remembered their outstanding service and dedicated work ethic. When the Federal Facilities Building was experiencing unsatisfactory performance with the janitorial contract, Simonson decided to give the AbilityOne Program a try. While some of the personnel were reluctant to work with people with disabilities, Simonson knew that this would work. Simonson initiated the contract and Murray Ridge agreed to take on the facilities’ seven day-per-week janitorial duties. “We were all overwhelmed with the improvement of cleaning and overall appearance,” stated Simonson. “I received such a positive response about the improved cleanliness of the facilities. Murray Ridge made a big difference.” In 2003, this contract was combined with the janitorial contract for the Cleveland- Hopkins International Air Tower. This was above Simonson’s contracting authority; however she lobbied for the new facility to go with Murray Ridge. Her lobbying worked, and this combined contract now provides four part- time jobs for people with severe disabilities in the local community. “Mary is a strong supporter of the AbilityOne Program and proud of knowing that through her effort, people with disabilities are enjoying productive employment,” stated Sandra Karas, Project Manager, NISH North Central Region. “It's been a pleasure working with Mary for the past eight years.” Jeff Miller, Director, Vocational Services of Murray Ridge, also appreciates all the support that Simonson provides. Her assistance allows Murray Ridge to perform to the best of their abilities. “As a contracting officer, Mary excels in understanding what is and what is not in the contract, and makes sure when additional duties are needed, they are promptly added to the contract,” stated Miller. In addition to receiving high quality service, Simonson welcomed some new friends to the building. Simonson, a proud grandmother of three, speaks with many of the employees on a daily basis and shares personal stories of grandchildren, weddings and vacations. They know each other by name. “Enabling these employees to work at the facility has been rewarding and enriching for me,” she stated. Simonson feels good about spending tax dollars on a quality service, while helping people with disabilities find employment. She is hopes to expand the Program and is currently in discussions to add more projects to the AbilityOne Procurement List. Simonson demonstrates what being an AbilityOne Champion is all about. Comments regarding AbilityOne Champion articles and nominations can be addressed to Sarah Gray, marketing manager, NISH National, at email@example.com.
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