When Deputy Garrison Commander Linda Hoeffner struck out on her career path fresh out of high school in the 1970s, she did not know where it would lead.
She took a civil service test and was offered a position as a clerk typist at Fort Riley. Her father urged her to take the position because he believed it would offer Hoeffner the opportunity for promotion.
"Within that year, they had me doing budget (work), and that's when really I got interested in the resource management world," Hoeffner recalled.
At the time there weren't many women in the workforce, but Hoeffner remembered being inspired by one of her first female bosses.
"She's done that," Hoeffner thought to herself. "I can break through this, too."
At the urging of one of her mentors, Lt. Col. Callanan, Hoeffner took advantage of some of the senior leadership courses offered by the Army and pursued her degree. She compiled records of training, much of which translated to college credits and eventually earned her degree from Upper Iowa University in 1995.
"You have to work hard," Hoeffner said. "You have to be dedicated and … you have to prove yourself."
Hoeffner rose through the ranks of the civilian force, working her way up from a General Schedule-3 position and becoming the director of the Resource Management Office. It was in that role that Hoeffner said she developed an interest in the deputy garrison commander position.
"I started working with the former deputy garrison commander and saw what she did, and I thought that would really interest me to shift my career into that kind of management," she recalled.
Today, Hoeffner has reached the level of GS-15, the highest GS position, and oversees all the civilian directors across fields like logistics, public works, public affairs and more.
"I have a very diversified responsibility," she said. "You have to have a little bit of knowledge in all those (areas) and not be an expert in any of it."
For Hoeffner, she said she embraces the challenge. She likes that each day is different, unpredictable.
"What I like best about my job is I never know what's going to happen in a day," she said. "I can have a calendar tell me what I think I'm going to be doing, but when I get to work something else has happened that I have to take care of."
But her main focus, she said, is always the civilian workforce. Her priorities include ensuring employees are properly trained, properly staffed and that they have the resources to do their jobs successfully.
"We have the best civilian workforce in the Army. I truly believe that. These civilians here are dedicated, and they'll give 110 percent to ensure our Soldiers and Families are taken care of," she said.
As command teams change every couple of years, Hoeffner also helps provide continuity for the installation.
"Each group is different," she said. "I've been absolutely fortunate to have the best command teams in the garrison since I've been the deputy garrison commander and, of course, we've had some great division commanders."
While styles of leadership may differ from group to group, the sense of team is essential, she said.
"This is a large installation and we have a big mission. It does take a Team Riley. If you try to do anything independently, you would lose that momentum of being a great installation and ensuring that the Families are taken care of, Soldiers have what they need … to perform their mission."
Fort Riley was recognized as an Army Community of Excellence in 2011 and 2012.
Looking back on her career, Hoeffner expressed pride in that achievement along with several additional accomplishments, chief among them Fort Riley's growth and the installation's stellar civilian employees.
Shortly after Hoeffner took the reigns as deputy garrison commander in 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure recommendation to move the 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley was announced. Since that time Hoeffner said she has seen exponential growth with the $1.6 billion in infrastructure investments for housing, education, child care and more.
"Those have been the highlights of my last eight years – working with the community on all the issues that we had with bringing home the 'Big Red One' and doubling in size," Hoeffner said. "Another big part of my job which I really, really like is working with the community."
For now, her biggest priority is to position Fort Riley for success in the future by ensuring that the civilian workforce can sustain its success and that the community partnerships remain strong.
"I think the big picture priority now is, as we move into the next few years, is to continue to send the message that Fort Riley is postured well for the future," she said. "The big priority, I think, is just to sustain what we have and continue the great partnerships we have … (and) to ensure the Army knows that Fort Riley is sustainable and that we're here for the long haul."
Hoeffner also served on the governor's task force to strategize on the growth for Fort Riley. She currently is a member of the Flint Hills Regional Council and, when the day comes that she retires, she plans to stay involved at Fort Riley.
"I still do want to stay very connected to Fort Riley," she said. "This is more than a job."