On a recent chilly morning inside the tall brick building where America’s official information has been printed and stored for 150 years, Davita Vance-Cooks began shaking hands with the 1,900 employees she’s now in charge of leading through a technological transformation.
A few got warm hugs or pats on the shoulder. It’s clear Vance-Cooks is no stranger in this crowd.
She became Acting Public Printer for the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) this month after serving as Deputy Public Printer for Bill Boarman, whose term ended in December.
The first woman to lead the agency, Vance-Cooks is charged with carrying out the agency’s mission of Keeping America Informed on the three branches of the Federal Government. Her immediate leadership strategy: engage with employees, follow a clear but flexible strategic plan and continue forging ahead in doing more with less through technology.
“The most exciting part about GPO is the fact that the world is continually changing and the trends continually change and we are responsible for responding to those trends,” she told AOL Government. “We can position ourselves in a market niche. We know about the trends and we watch them and position ourselves accordingly. We’re leaders in technology. We have to be. We’re trying to run a business.”
From issuing passports to developing mobile apps and E-reader documents, Vance-Cooks said she will continue to embark on innovative ways to meet its unique challenge of functioning as the only public agency responsible for recovering its costs and disseminating authenticated information as quickly as possible.
As a seasoned business executive with 30 years of private sector and Federal Government experience, Vance-Cooks’ background meshes well with the task. She has held a succession of senior management positions at GPO for nearly eight years.
Vance-Cooks’ main challenge will involve overseeing technology upgrades and continuing to retrain and reduce the agencies workforce to adapt to changing technology and a demand to do more with less in the current economic climate.
In fact, as Breaking Gov reported in September, the federal agency has seen its workforce diminish over the years by nearly 75 percent. At that time the office employed 2,200. It’s now down to 1,900, a number that will continue to decline in the coming months and years, Vance-Cooks said.
According to published reports, slightly more than 70 percent of the remainder of its FY2012 budget — $90.7 million — has been earmarked for electronic file preparation used for both digital access and for printing paper documents. The move to digital publishing began about 20 years ago the real thrust took place in 2006 with the Federal Digital System(FDsys), which provides permanent access to authenticated documents.
Vance-Cooks said some system upgrades will pay for themselves in two to three years.
“At the same time we’re reducing the number of employees, we’re changing the skillset of our employees,” she told Breaking Gov. “This will result in improved savings because they will be working on digital technology as opposed to some of the old fashioned ways of doing things.”
As part of her workforce management responsibilities, Vance-Cooks has appointed Lyle Green as Managing Director of Official Journals of Government and Ginger Thomas as Chief Human Capital Officer for the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). Green and Thomas each bring decades of Federal Government and private sector experience to their new positions. In addition, Juanita Flores, Assistant Director of GPO’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), will serve as Acting EEO Director.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Lyle, Ginger, and Juanita in different capacities during our time together at GPO and I am confident that they will do an outstanding job leading their respective units,” Vance-Cooks said in a statement. “Lyle, Ginger, and Juanita have played a critical role in GPO’s internal operations of strengthening our workforce and external operations of meeting the information dissemination needs of Congress and Federal agencies.”
Before coming to GPO, Vance-Cooks held several private sector management positions. She was the Senior Vice-President of Operations for NYLCare MidAtlantic Health Plan where, among other duties, she was responsible for a digital print work center for production of variable data printing products. She also served as the Director of Customer Service and Claims, Director of Membership and Billing, and Director of Market Research and Product Development for Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans. She also served as the General Manager of HTH Worldwide Insurance Services. Vance-Cooks earned her Bachelors degree from Tufts University and her MBA from Columbia University.
Vance-Cooks was automatically elevated to her current role after Boarman appointed her as his deputy when the Senate reportedly rejected his nomination to continue on as public printer in December.