For Sue Smiley, concluding her career with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at the Office of Legacy Management (LM) Fernald Preserve and Mound sites in Ohio is a sign that her work in the field of environmental remediation has come full circle.
During Smiley’s 30 years at DOE, she became an expert on site closure, environmental cleanup design and execution, and long-term surveillance and maintenance (LTS&M) remedies. She holds a Master of Environmental Science degree from Miami University, with a concentration in applied ecology, and a Bachelor of Science in zoology from Miami University. She is also a certified project management professional and a registered environmental manager.
A graduate school internship at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Ohio turned into a full-time job. Smiley used the opportunity as a steppingstone to join DOE in 1990, as an environmental compliance specialist at Mound Laboratory during Defense Program operations.
Smiley subsequently followed her supervisor to the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM), Fernald Field Office, where she supported quality assurance and federal oversight during the early days of the Fernald cleanup. She then returned to Mound as the site transition manager of the Miamisburg Closure Project (MCP). Later she moved to the newly formed Ohio Field Office as lead environmental compliance specialist and the site transition manager for the Fernald, Mound, Columbus, and Ashtabula sites in Ohio.
After cleanup was substantially completed at the Ohio Closure Sites, Smiley moved to the DOE-EM Consolidated Business Center in Cincinnati, where she continued to support site transition planning for Ohio and Rocky Flats Closure sites, several DOE national laboratories, and EM “small sites,” such as Moab, Utah. Her tenure and expertise in site transitions eventually brought her to her final role with DOE in 2016, when she became the site manager for both the Fernald Preserve and Mound sites. In addition, she served as an LM expert on planning for transitioning sites.
To young professionals looking to build a career in environmental remediation, Smiley recommends a well-rounded, team-focused approach.
“Having a strong technical background is only one component of being a competent site manager,” Smiley said. “It’s also important to understand and recognize the value of work performed by others, often operating behind the scenes on the team.”
Smiley’s focus on and fondness for her fellow team members will remain one of her favorite memories of her time with DOE.
“The thing I’ve loved the most about my career is having the honor and privilege of working with all of the great DOE and DOE contractor folks over the past several years,” Smiley said. “I wish them all the best of luck in the future.”
Colleagues and coworkers from across LM attended Smiley’s virtual retirement ceremony on December 17 with the presentation of a retirement card signed by past and present employees. Smiley received a DOE “Distinguished Service” award, the highest of the three retirement award designations for federal employees, in deep appreciation of the competency and technical skills she displayed over the course of her career. Well wishes, fond memories, and congratulations were shared, as Smiley received handmade gifts and mementos of her time spent at the Fernald Preserve and Mound sites.
Smiley said she is impressed by the continued dedication of DOE and DOE Contractor staff who maintain and monitor the environmental remedies at the Mound site, while the non-profit Mound Development Corp. and representatives from the city of Miamisburg work tirelessly to ensure the continued beneficial reuse of the former federal site. “The focus was always on ensuring the privately owned Mound Business Park continued to flourish and attract new businesses,” Smiley said.
Smiley was also instrumental in the design and 2018 start-up of the Mound Cold War Discovery Center, an interpretive center at the Mound site designated to maintain the legacy of the former Mound Laboratory and its workers through the production era, environmental cleanup and present-day LTS&M.
Speaking about her five years spent at the Fernald Preserve, Smiley makes special mention of both the Fernald Residents for Environment, Safety & Health (FRESH) and the Fernald Community Alliance (FCA) stakeholder groups.
“I was amazed at the dedication and enthusiasm those individuals brought to the table — continuing to keep an eye on DOE activities at the Fernald Preserve, but also serving as advocates and educators about the site when questions arose regarding the environmental cleanup or long-term stewardship of the site,” Smiley said.
In the absence of checking emails and managing day-to-day site management tasks, Smiley intends to spend her newfound free time enjoying her many hobbies. Whether she’s going for a leisurely horseback ride, getting her hands dirty in the garden, or painting watercolors, Smiley certainly will not find herself with a shortage of enjoyable ways to fill her days. In fact, she has already made plans to return to Fernald Preserve to hike some of the site’s seven miles of nature trails—this time as a nature enthusiast instead of as the DOE site manager.