Vickie Wolber, BBA 2008

As Macomb County’s Director of Emergency Management & Communications, Vicki recently led a project team to create COMTEC, the nation's first and largest communications and technical operations center. "COMTEC integrates emergency management, public safety, the Department of Roads, as well as IT services, under one roof," said Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel. "This one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art facility is a model of intergovernmental cooperation."

The $13.5 million project came in on time and $700,000 under budget. It was funded through a variety of sources, including approximately 75 percent in grant or outside funds and 25 percent from the county's capital budget.

Here is our conversation:

What were some of the most important things you learned at Walsh?
Business, management, and human resource courses have been extremely beneficial in running the day-to-day activities of a department, including budgets, financial statements, writing strategies, dealing with personnel issues, leadership roles, diversity, etc. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the human resource courses helped more than I ever thought they would. As I progressed further in my career, I was increasingly in charge of more and more people. Without the human resource courses, I would not have had an effective knowledge base and would have been way behind in my ability to effectively manage. The communication skills that were taught were equally valuable. I have found that the ability to write and present information is critical to your career success. You could have the greatest technical knowledge in the world, however, if you can’t communicate it or explain it, you are not as valuable to an employer, and that may hinder your career. Walsh also served as a confidence-builder. Since I worked full time and went to college part time, I learned to be a multi-tasker; prioritization becomes key. I also learned dedication and hard work.

Is there someone who has had a significant impact on you as a leader?
Two people come to mind who have had a significant impact on me as a leader. The first would be my dad and the other would be my current boss, Mark Hackel. I followed very closely in my father’s footsteps. He spent his entire career as a public servant, first as a police officer with the city of Detroit, then as the public safety director for the city of Fraser, and then also as an adjunct professor for MCC.  While I am not a police officer, I serve in a public safety role, and many of his work colleagues are now, or have been, my colleagues. I am also an adjunct professor at MCC. I have followed his footsteps with a career in public service. 

Mark Hackel is the Macomb County Executive and has been my boss since 2011. Mark has a great many leadership skills and qualities that many, including myself, would espouse to have. He does not sit on the sidelines and let things happen; he makes things happen. He takes his role as a public servant seriously and is passionate about it, which is infectious and carries through to his department leaders, including me. He lets his department leaders lead. He asks for my advice and opinion. He values my knowledge, input, and expertise, and actually talks situations through with me. He makes me want to work for him.

Are there unique challenges that go with being leader and visible civil servant?
Yes, there are challenges that go along with being a leader and a visible public servant, but I am not so sure that they are unique to that sector alone. In many ways, I consider them issues that all leaders may have to deal with from time to time. They include having a huge responsibility to and for the public at large, which I do not take lightly. Also, it can be difficult to be seen as sincere and trustworthy in a time when there is so much distrust with the government.

What advice would you give to current Walsh students who aspire to leadership positions?  What do you feel is a key challenge facing leaders today?
• Have faith in/believe in yourself
• Remember what/who your mission is; many times you can get distracted for a whole host of reasons which may serve a purpose at that time, but continue to aim for the end game and it will be worth it
• Being a leader is not always being popular or having/sharing the popular opinion
• Listen
• It does take work
• It may sneak up on you/take you by surprise that you are already a leader
I think a key challenge that most leaders face is that in certain circumstances you have to “go it alone.” What I mean by that is there will be times that you have to step out of your comfort zone and be the dissenting voice on an issue – particularly if you have been at an organization for a while and you have to fight a “group think” culture.  It takes courage.

Why would you encourage someone to attend Walsh?
To be honest, Walsh was the option in our family. My father graduated from Walsh, as did many members of my family.
Walsh has a great reputation in our local community, particularly for providing a great business-focused education – it’s the place to go.  The school’s size and the classroom size are very appealing because you get personal attention from the faculty and staff. The flexibility of the course delivery is also important. From the multiple campuses to online options, a student can design a program that fits their individual schedule.

I had the option to pursue a business degree at Walsh or a specialized degree in emergency management or homeland security. I did not want to get pigeon-holed into one particular area, as I thought it would not provide the greatest career options. My Walsh degree helped take me to the next level and provided opportunities to advance my career with Macomb County. Walsh is not just for people with business backgrounds. If you are a specialist in another field but find yourself in a managerial role, Walsh can provide the education and skills you need to succeed.

 Thank you Vickie  We are so proud of you and wish you the absolute best in all your county endeavors. 



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