Have you ever met someone and just instantly felt like they could be your best friend? Someone who’s energy is so contagious, warm, and welcoming, that you just want to bundle them up and keep them close to you all the time? Someone who looks at the world through a rose-colored lens, where every obstacle is an opportunity? If not, then let me introduce you to Andra Homer.
Andra grew up in Los Angeles, raised just off of 76th Street and Compton Avenue, which she said was “definitely not Beverly Hills.” Wanting to see the world beyond Los Angeles, she joined the United States Navy in 1997.
Despite the military fully integrating women into the services in the 1970s, several opportunities remained hard to come by. For instance, women in the Navy still generally weren’t placed on foreign-deployed fleets. In fact, according to Andra, she was one of the first women to be integrated onto a foreign-deployed ship as well as one of the first African American women to deploy internationally.
Andra spent all eight years of her military service in Japan before separating from the Navy in 2005. After becoming a first-generation college graduate and getting married, Andra’s journey took her to Savannah, Georgia, to be close to her husband’s family.
Georgia is where Andra’s civilian federal service would get its start.
“I applied for a job with the Internal Revenue Service. I came from mostly accounting in the Navy, so I already had the background knowledge,” explains Homer. “The job was only a temporary position, so I also applied for an accountant position with the Corps in Savannah. At the time, I didn’t really know much about the Corps.”
After getting lost in rural Georgia while trying to process the necessary documents for the IRS job, Andra felt like this was a sign. She turned down the position with the IRS. And within a few short weeks, USACE’s Savannah District came calling with a job offer.
So how did our California girl get back to California?
A supervisory accountant position with the Department of the Interior became available in California.
“I wanted to think outside of the box. Switch things up,” Homer says with a laugh. “I would say that having that outside agency experience was a vital step in my career progression.”
Homer explains that by the time she applied for a job in Programs and Project Management Division with Sacramento District, she had a good understanding of not only how USACE operated but also how they assisted other agencies and the military, and what it was like to be on the receiving end of USACE services.
She worked her way from PPMD to Resource Management as the Finance and Accounting Chief. In March 2020 on the eve of a global pandemic, Homer was named acting Chief of RM for 120 days.
“My first day as acting Chief, I told my team, ‘If time and attendance goes down, we can work around that; if we can’t approve Purchase Requests & Commitments, we can work around that, too; but if we can’t get people paid, we are all in a trouble!” said Homer.
Resource Management Division manages finance and accounting, manpower and budget branches, oversees the operating budget, oversees manpower allocation and resources and the execution of payroll, and the list goes on. Homer’s main goal is to “always use the best fiscal management process to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar.”
Her team of 25 handled $900 million in programs, $66.5 million in operating budget, and $28 million in labor and payroll during the 2020 fiscal year. Homer describes her team as exceptional saying, “I like to think that my team is small but mighty.”
Homer was formally named Chief of Resource Management in the fall of 2020. It’s the cherry on top of a career that still at times feels unreal.
“I’m a first-generation college graduate. Just becoming the Finance and Accounting Chief was a dream to me,” Homer explains vibrantly and with a laugh. “I so often feel like Cinderella at the ball and like maybe my carriage is going to turn back into a pumpkin at any second.”
In addition to her RM duties, becoming a division chief means that Andra also now serves on the 14-person Corporate Board, which exists as an advisory board to the Commander. Sacramento District’s Corporate Board is made up of the 11 division chiefs as well as the deputy district engineer for programs and project management, the deputy district commander, and the district commander. Homer says it was no easy task to get a Corporate Board position.
The hiring panel consisted of two senior executive leaders as well as the Chief Finance Officer from Division Headquarters in San Francisco. Andra tried to contain her laughter as she said, “I thought it was just going to be Col. Handura, and I talk to him all the time so I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal!”
Homer explains that while Corporate Board-level positions are often filled from outside the organization, she felt that working up the ranks of the organization is what set her apart from others, and that it really shows that the district “values and appreciates those with the institutional background.”
Homer is the youngest member to ever serve on Sacramento District’s Corporate Board and is also the first African American female to serve on the board.
While there isn’t really a next step planned for Homer’s career at the moment, she wants to focus on making her team better, and to “build and stack the bench.” She said she wants to cultivate her team and give them opportunities and pass on her own knowledge before she thinks about what comes next.
“When you do great things, great things come to you,” Andra says. “And more often than not, great people come along with it.”