Woman in charge of $65B credits Dickinson for successA woman who is serving as the nation’s largest office building landlord, coordinator of the leading civilian vehicle fleet and biggest travel agency, said for years Dickinson was her home and the time she spent there has helped her “stay anchored.”
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
A woman who is serving as the nation’s largest office building landlord, coordinator of the leading civilian vehicle fleet and biggest travel agency, said for years Dickinson was her home and the time she spent there has helped her “stay anchored.”
As the nation struggles with economic hardship, the U.S. General Service Administration and its administrator Martha (Nace) Johnson are trying to save money by making federal buildings and vehicles more energy efficient.
Johnson attended Dickinson High School her freshman and sophomore years before moving east, but she stayed connected.
“My family lived there 17 years. I came home to Dickinson for years and considered it my home, even when I was away in college and things like that,” she said.
Johnson said she remembers whistling away on her flute while marching down the city streets with the high school band and learning to drive a car on those same roads. She also remembered a strong community atmosphere.
“A lot of people know who you are and they are paying attention to you,” she said. “People cared what you were all about.”
After finishing at boarding school, she went to Oberlin College and then Yale. When she was in college, she came back during a summer breaks and worked in a café across from the railroad station, which has since been closed. She also worked with county social service with a family psychologist.
“You learn core lessons in your community and then you go and gain more expertise and then you can go out in the world, and I think that is what Dickinson did for me,” Johnson said. “It taught me how to work hard, how to be respectful, and then go get my skills and
Now, Johnson is head of the federal agency that is responsible for 10,000 federal buildings, a 200,000-vehicle fleet and $65 billion a year in federal agency purchases.
However, it would be tough to tell, Dickinson resident Dann Greenwood said. Greenwood and his wife, Deb, have known Johnson since high school and they have kept in touch over the years.
“The interesting thing is if you didn’t know she was running one of the largest operations in the world, you would think she is just a regular soccer mom,” Dann Greenwood said.
He said he remembered Johnson picking them up in her personal van when they were staying with her family. They enjoyed dinner together just before Johnson was whisked away in a limo.
“She is a great person, a regular person and great family person,” Deb Greenwood said.
Johnson said she never imagined that she would be in this position, but she was always able to dream big when in North Dakota.
“You grow up in a place that you feel safe and cared for, and you are in the middle of the prairie, and you can always dream of all sorts of things,” she said. “So I always felt there was