A Q-and-A with Little Rock District Architect of the Year Bill Jackson

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District
Story by Jay Townsend

Date: 12.05.2013
Posted: 12.05.2013 13:41
News ID: 117776
Little Rock District architect of the year

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Bio:
Name: Bill Jackson
Official Position: Architect, Design Branch, SWL
Years with SWL: 29 years
Years of federal service: 29 years
Hometown: Little Rock (born and raised here)
Education: Hall High School (Little Rock), University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (Bachelor of Architecture Degree)

What does being named Architect of the Year mean to you?

We all know that it is self-confirming when our efforts are recognized by others, especially by our superiors. However, true fulfillment goes beyond personal recognition. There was a time when I wished I had certificates to hang on my wall and I strived to work harder to earn them. The problem was that I was focused on myself. I then began to see situations where others were in need of help. By focusing on their needs rather than my own needs, my efforts resulted in their needs being met. As a result, personal recognition came within time. Receiving the Architect of the Year award was a perfect example.

What’s the most rewarding project you’ve ever worked on?

The most rewarding project would have been design and construction of the Dewey Short Visitor Center at Table Rock Lake for which I served as the design team coordinator. That project was completed in April of 2012. To award a first class high quality facility and meet the challenging schedule established for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects, I guided the technical team through development of the technical requirements, contractor selection and evaluation, and design charette resulting in the only Class “A” visitor center in the Little Rock District. The new 15,000 square foot class “A” regional visitor center not only tells the story of the US Army Corps of Engineers, but also educates visitors on flood control, hydropower, water supply, and recreation aspects of the White River watershed system. In addition, the facility promotes the USACE Campaign Goal 3 by achieving LEED Gold green building certification.

What project/s were you working on that earned you the title Architect of the Year? What are the impacts of those projects to our stakeholders?

Dewey Short Visitor Center:

The Dewey Short Visitor Center Project is the primary project that earned me the title Architect of the Year. When SWL was directed to design and build a Class “A” visitor center at Table Rock Lake, PPMD planned to utilize a MATOC contract out of the Huntsville District. Upon review of a current “go-by” request for proposal already in place by HNC for a new visitor center, I realized that the proposed RFP was woefully inadequate to build a Class “A” visitor center.

After expressing my concern to the project manager, Ms. Shirley Bruce, the project delivery schedule was extended to provide adequate time for necessary revisions to the RFP. Working in unison with Ms. Bruce and the customer, the Design Development Team under my leadership rewrote many elements of the RFP. At one point, I traveled to Table Rock Lake to work hand in hand with the user at the Project Office. Due to unavailability of a conference room, the project office rep, construction rep and operations rep met with me in my hotel room two full days brainstorming to put finishing touches to the story line required for the exhibits of the visitor center.

After the contract was awarded, the Design Development Team under my leadership carried the project through the design/build process including the building design, design of the interpretive exhibits, design of the “Native Grasslands” landscaping and of course the construction of the facility in order to meet the tight schedule dictated by the ARRA funding. The end result was a very beautiful Class “A” Visitor Center that will “wow” any guest.


Army Physical Fitness Research Institute:

The Army Physical Fitness Research Institute was another project that earned me the title Architect of the Year. The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss had tried for several years to acquire a modern Army Physical Fitness Research Institute building. Their current APFRI building was a makeshift setup in a small warehouse.

One of the many issues with acquiring a modern facility was the difficulty in defining the architectural requirements, the flow of customers and employees through the building, the space requirements for each functional area, and how to fit all the needs into pre-determined square footage limitation set by the approved programming documents. I was able to effectively communicate with the customer, understand all their needs, and expertly apply my skills as an architect to meet all the customer's requirements within the square foot limitations provided. My patience and ability to understand and work with the customer enforced the USACE commitment to having our customers be an integral part of the Project Delivery Team. Without my efforts the USASMA at Fort Bliss would likely have had another disappointing outcome in its efforts to acquire the APFRI facility.


Tell us something about yourself that we don’t know?

With a gift certificate that I bought at a silent auction, I once did a tandem sky dive from 10,000 feet. Notice that I said once!

On the serious side, I am an American history buff. I love to visit history museums and read those long boring history books that talk about our founding fathers. I have given numerous speeches in the Federal Employees Toastmasters Club concerning our American birthright of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.