Profiles of African Americans at EPA: Kerry Neal
Kerry Neal, Acting Deputy Director
Office of General Counsel (OGC)
National FOIA Office (NFO)
Where were you born?
I was born in Edwards, California (Edwards Air Force Base) Kern County. I was an Air Force baby, in an Air Force family!
What brought you to EPA?
I had an opportunity to see how passionate people were about EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment and I wanted to be a part of an agency with a strong commitment to both its employees and to the American public. I knew the former director of the Office of Grants and Debarment (OGD) from our grants management circles and I was impressed with his commitment to excellence. More than this, I felt a call to service to help chart the future course of federal assistance through streamlining grants processing as well as grants and interagency information management systems here at the EPA. While I’ve recently refocused efforts to assisting the Office of General Counsel National FOIA Office as part of its leadership team, the passion and commitment is equally apparent in the fine cadre of legal professionals with whom I am currently working.
What type of work do you do at EPA?
I currently serve (on detail) as the Acting Deputy Director of the National FOIA Office. I’m very new in this position, but my role is to manage operations for the NFO during a time of unprecedented growth and change - as the vision for the NFO is fully realized. This is a great opportunity to bring to bear my expertise in administration, budget, training, and other key operational areas to ensure the success of both NFO and OGC’s mission.
What is your highest level of education? What was your major?
I earned a juris doctor (law) degree. I have three degrees and I’m working on a master of laws (LL.M.) at Georgetown University Law Center; my undergraduate major was business administration with a concentration in management and marketing.
What message would you like to send other Black/African Americans who are considering college or a career in environmental protection?
Here’s some things that come to mind... First, there must be a firm personal commitment to doing the right thing rather than doing the expedient thing, especially as it relates to environmental justice, environmental programs, or advocacy. Second, environmental protection is a marathon rather than a sprint – it takes that kind of ‘long-game’ commitment to protect human health and the environment. I’d also add that the call to civil service must be anchored in understanding servant leadership and service to others. As a leader, I consistently strive to ‘walk the talk’ of being the change I want to see in the agency as well as in the world. People with an interest in public service must be thought leaders and commit to excellence; be fully willing to do the hard work! I encourage folks to be influencers, regardless of position, and lean-in to projects and opportunities that expand knowledge and expertise, develop relationships, and create synergies and opportunities for success across the agency and across the government. Be a mentor to others and be willing to be mentored. Lastly, Will Smith has a saying “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.” I think that speaks for itself.