CHESTERFIELD – After a storied career spanning more than 35 years in civil service, Harold McManus retired at the end of March from his post as director of Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity.
The times are always changing, and McManus has ridden on the crest of the wave that swept in changes to the way women, minorities and individuals with disabilities are treated in the workplace.
In that time, McManus has seen changes, subtle and overt, that have come with equal opportunity rulings affecting the workplace. Perhaps the greatest of these for the agency was the 1977 ruling that resulted from a class action complaint led by Lillie Mae Brown against what was then known as Defense General Supply Center.
“I came here in 1982, and we were only five years removed from the consent decree [to Brown’s complaint]. I was not aware of the occurrence until much later in my career,” McManus said. “I can remember restroom doors in the depot where the signs that previously read ‘Colored’ had been painted over.”
McManus recalls that staff also never talked about sexual harassment until the 1991 Tailhook scandal, and afterward everyone received training on sexual harassment awareness and prevention. “I do believe many people didn’t know what sexual harassment was prior to that, but since that time we have made tremendous progress,” he said.
Other progress, he said, includes growth in the number of minorities and women in the workforce, particularly senior-level positions. “While African-Americans have made a great deal of progress, women have been the greatest beneficiaries [of equal opportunity rulings],” he said. “Culturally, there certainly is more diversity in terms of minorities and individuals with disabilities. The camaraderie and teamwork among the workforce is certainly better, but there is still work to be done. My hope is that we will continue to build on those successes.”
McManus started his civil service career in 1982 as a clerk-typist. Additional positions held included supervisory technical data clerk, supervisory supply technician, management analyst, and most recently, Equal Employment Opportunity specialist in 1998, complaints manager in 2001 and EEOD manager in 2005. He cites the experience gained in his early roles as integral to his success.
“I served as a supervisor in Technical Operations and Supply Operations, so I had knowledge of the daily challenges of being a manager,” he said. “As a management analyst in the Management Engineering Branch, I gained a great deal of knowledge about the inner workings of the mission and its operations – which gave me a business perspective to apply when employees raised concerns in EEO. I think these experiences were invaluable, especially in the early stages.”
McManus’ leadership and means of inspiring his staff to excel have earned the office the DLA EEO Activity of the Year Award twice, in 2005 and 2006. Janice Samuel, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion Office for DLA Headquarters at Fort Belvoir, cut her teeth under McManus and learned a great deal from his “tough, but fair” approach to leadership.
“Mr. McManus truly has a heart for caring for, and about, people,” Samuel said. “He has a strong conviction for treating people fairly and making the workplace a better environment for all. He made me recognize my talents and strengths, and helped me to become confident. He provided me with opportunities to reach my potential. He has truly been a great mentor, supervisor and friend.”
McManus’ support staff are equally passionate about the positive impact his leadership has had on the office and on their respective careers. Laurie Darrisaw, an EEO specialist and training coordinator for DLA Aviation, said McManus allowed her to use the skills she acquired in a previous position to develop creative ways to train the workforce.
In the course of her work, Darrisaw said McManus was a valuable teacher and leader. “I have learned never to allow distractions to overwhelm me to the point of ineffectiveness; to listen without judgment and to know that, when I don’t know how to resolve an issue, I can utilize the expertise of those who have been in the EEO business for years,” she said.
Darrisaw revealed that, behind McManus’ tough exterior, he’s a loving family man with penchants for baking and for giving back to the community. “He is a very compassionate and giving person,” she said.
McManus’ volunteer pursuits throughout the years have included service to Chesterfield County and Petersburg youth athletic groups and advisory boards, board service and volunteer work with Tri-Cities Habitat for Humanity, directorships and chairing duties for numerous athletic organizations, and active membership in Good Shepherd Baptist Church. He and his wife, Kendra, have two sons, one daughter, and five grandchildren.
Deborah Winston, DLA Aviation’s chief of EEOD Complaints and Training Branch, said she has appreciated McManus’ open-door policy and outgoing personality.
“Harold is a great encourager; his gift is recognizing potential and helping an employee reach his or her potential. He has the uncanny ability to make all people feel welcome,” Winston said.
From his leadership, she said she has learned to reach out and communicate with her staff and to take the initiative on new projects. “I personally owe him a debt of gratitude for allowing me to step outside the box to initiate new programs,” she said. “Harold always stressed neutrality and credibility. Once you lose your credibility, it cannot be easily regained. This has been a guiding principle in how I manage my staff as well as my daily communications and interactions.”
With retirement on the horizon, McManus offered words of encouragement to his successor and praised his team for their professionalism.
“No organization is perfect, but DLA – and DLA Aviation – from my standpoint is a great organization. Inherent to this position has been great support from leadership and resources to conduct the EEO mission without unnecessary interference, micromanaging or unwarranted attempts to control outcomes,” he said.
Once he is fully engaged in life after DLA, McManus said he will continue his work with inner-city youth athletics and would like to do work on behalf of sexual assault and domestic violence victims. “I will still dabble in EEO-related work as time permits, and who knows after that?”
“All I know for sure is that I won’t sit for long because I’m not wired that way,” McManus added. “I have a quote on my wall that says, ‘I shall pass this way but once, therefore any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.’”