by Martie Cenkci
Southwestern Division Public Affairs
The Corps of Engineers recently marked the passing of a major transformational leader: Tommy Schmidt, former Southwestern Division Dam Safety Program Manager and senior Geotechnical Engineer. Schmidt passed away in Fort Worth on Aug. 16, about a year and a half after his retirement; he had provided outstanding service to the Corps of Engineers and the nation for almost four decades.
“Tommy Schmidt’s impact on the Southwestern Division and the Corps was one of those long lasting impacts, the kind that continues for many years,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Kula, SWD commander. “His engineering and technical expertise, combined with his keen sense of how critical dam safety is to the Nation, made him an unparalleled expert whose advice was sought and followed.
“He was extremely instrumental in the implementation of a new Dam Safety Production Center,” Kula added. “This center streamlines the dam safety workload and will result in safer dams and a greater degree of public safety in the Southwestern Division footprint.”
Schmidt retired in December 2011, after 38 years of service with the Corps. He held a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. He served at SWD from 1994 until his retirement, and had served as a civil engineer with the Fort Worth District from 1973-1994.
“Tommy was one of the most influential people in the history of the Corps Dam Safety Program,” said Eric Halpin, special assistant for Dam and Levee Safety at Headquarters U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “He helped rebuild the Dam Safety Program and the Community of Practice through his work on the Dam Safety Steering Committee, the Dam Safety Senior Oversight Group, and the Dam Safety Policy and Procedures Team.
Schmidt was also the proponent and lead developer of the Dam Safety Program Management Tools, which answers many of the basic questions that were posed to the program over a decade ago. He recognized the need for a Dam Safety Scorecard to track the effectiveness of each district’s Dam Safety Program. He developed and implemented the concept in the Southwestern Division and this process has now been adopted Corps-wide.
“Tommy was a kind and quiet man, providing thoughtful advice, backed by a great education, broad experience, and good "old school" smarts to all levels of the organization,” Halpin continued. “When he spoke, we all stopped, listened, and learned something. His work helped change the very culture of the program and the agency, one where life safety is paramount and decisions are risk informed.”
Halpin also announced that the Corps will officially honor Schmidt by renaming the annual USACE Dam Safety Award the "Tommy Schmidt Dam Safety Professional of the Year,” creating an opportunity for people to be reminded of who Schmidt was and the incredible contributions he made and transformation he brought to the Corps of Engineers and the Nation.