Family Legacy at USDA Led to Leigh Ann Acree’s Rewarding FSIS Career
By Suzanne Hensell, OPACE
In 2004, Leigh Ann Acree was a recent college graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in visual arts from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her mother – Dr. Bonnie Rose, a microbiologist with FSIS’ Office of Public Health Science – encouraged her to apply for an internship with FSIS. The agency’s newly created Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) was offering an internship through the Federal Career Intern Program. Since Acree was computer savvy and had graphics and editing experience, she applied, was offered the internship and began working at the agency in February 2005. Eighteen years later, she continues her family’s legacy of service with USDA. Acree’s father, Lewis Kent Rose, had joined USDA’s Forest Service (FS) as a forestry technician after serving in the Air Force. Her father and mother retired from the department after 25 years and 30 years of service, respectively.
Internship to FSIS Career
Acree’s work as an information technology (IT) specialist in OCIO’s Capital Planning, Execution and Workforce Management Branch of the Portfolio Governance Center (PGC) is broad. She is responsible for planning, scheduling and conducting studies, as well as collecting, validating and analyzing statistical data and reviewing program activities. She prepares documents, tracks policy reviews and frequently responds to data calls, often by working with subject matter experts.
She has found that IT messages, briefs and PowerPoint presentations sometimes are written at a high level that non-technical employees may not understand. Acree recommends ways to improve the effectiveness of communicating IT operations to FSIS employees through user messages, supplemental flyers and Tech Tips found in FSIS’ weekly eNewsletter, Food for Thought.
Acree’s job duties also include supporting the graphic design needs of OCIO and other FSIS program areas. Tasks include designing graphics for presentations, posters, flow charts and awards. She also provides digital photography for various projects and works with IT developers to plan graphics requirements and graphic content for agency mobile applications.
Recognition for a Job Well Done
In FY23, Acree was part of a team that helped to close gaps in an agency program designed to ensure compliance with federal standards for improving the management of IT acquisitions and operations. The standards seek to reduce government waste, manage investments and utilize readily available tools and products in federal IT programs. The team was recently recognized by the agency for its successful efforts, which resulted in FSIS being one of only four USDA agencies to achieve the highest scores by closing out all identified gaps and demonstrating the highest level of capability.
During FY23, OCIO recognized Acree for revising the digital OCIO New Employee Welcome Packet under a very short deadline. She created 13 new items for the digital packet, stored it on the OCIO SharePoint site and included resource documents such as the OCIO telephone directory and organization charts, OCIO newsletter and Tech Tips archives, and the 2023-2026 FSIS Strategic Plan.
Acree was part of a group that was awarded the Administrator’s Award for Excellence for Operational Improvement for the eDevice Project in FY21. The team helped deliver eDevices that provided electronic access to agency tools and documents to approximately 3,000 frontline inspectors who did not previously have access. She helped track the program rollout’s progress, analyzing large amounts of data to report to FSIS leadership.
In 2010, Acree designed silver and gold non-monetary award coins for those who do IT work in OCIO and for those who helped develop FSIS’ Public Health Information System. She received a gold coin of her own from OCIO in 2018, when she was recognized as OCIO Technician of the Year for FY17 for developing the IT procurement process improvement team policy and toolkit.
FSIS Core Values
Said Joe Gomes, Acree’s supervisor and PGC chief, “Ms. Acree is an excellent member of my team. She is a friendly, dedicated and detail-oriented worker who completes her day-to-day duties at a high quality and is always willing to help her colleagues in FSIS, OCIO and even other agencies if her expertise is needed on special projects.
“She exemplifies FSIS Core Values because she is always accountable to provide professional work products and she is empowered because she is the only employee responsible for researching and writing FSIS Tech Tips and Mobile Tech Tips, as well as coordinating, writing and designing OCIO’s 13-page newsletter PING, which is released several times throughout the year. She is also solutions-oriented, ensuring that all communication items that come from OCIO are professional and written in an understandable context for all our employees.
Leigh Ann demonstrated her collaborative skills when she facilitated a training exercise with members of USDA’s U.S. Forest Service. She provided subject matter expertise on page layouts and other edits to the Forest Service Emergency Medical Services Protocol and Procedures Manual. Leigh Ann’s willingness to assist others helped promote teamwork within the department.”
Outside of Work
In the next five years, Acree sees herself still working for OCIO, performing her duties as an IT Specialist. Said Acree, “Since I have worked almost 20 years for the agency, I plan to continue to learn and grow professionally to support our food safety mission.”
Acree and her husband Lawrence (who goes by “Art”) have one son. A former private piano and music theory teacher, Acree enjoys playing music and teaching her son to play the piano and violin. She also enjoys reading books, watching movies, taking photographs and camping and traveling with her family.
Since Acree learned about pathogens and foodborne illness at an early age, it is important to her that she and her family practice “Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill” when preparing food. Perhaps someday, Acree's son can follow in his mother’s and grandparents’ footsteps and become a member of the USDA family.