A New Era Begins For Our Field Directorate

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The Closing of Six Regional Offices

Written by: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

Eighteen months have passed since we first announced the planned December 2012 closure of six regional offices and a significant change in how we manage survey data collection through our 7,000 field interviewers.  Our goal was to reduce costs and improve data quality by allowing local home-based field supervisors to manage a trained, professional staff who know their communities and are experts in eliciting responses from sometime reluctant households.

This realignment was a complex, demanding undertaking with an aggressive schedule.  This task was even more challenging in that it resulted in the loss of jobs and a major realignment of office and field responsibilities.  Many other organizations have failed in implementing even more modest proposals, but the Field Directorate, as always, accomplished this mission and did it in a superb manner.

Regional offices in Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City, and Seattle will close on December 31, 2012.  Our six regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia will assume responsibilities for all data collection using reconfigured regional boundaries that now more evenly balance the field workload.

We knew this realignment would not be easy.  Yet managers and staff in the regions and headquarters rose to this challenge and performed amazing feats under trying circumstances. Even though staff in the closing offices were facing the loss of their jobs or earlier than planned retirements, while the remaining offices were expected to absorb double the work, the regional office staff performed professionally and exceptionally.  In the midst of significant change, the staff continued to meet our ongoing survey requirements, even as they changed the way we conduct and manage surveys.  Just as was the case with the 2010 Census, the mission came first and the Field delivered.

Just during the past 12 months, more than 625 home-based field supervisors were hired and trained, survey data collection databases were reconfigured to support the new boundaries, and new technology was deployed that permits home-based supervisors to have full and secured access to Census Bureau systems through our Virtual Desktop Interface technology.  Throughout the realignment process, ongoing data collection has continued without interruption and data quality has never suffered.

As this 50-year era of 12 regional offices ends and an even more demanding  era begins, I want to sincerely thank each of our regional staff for their unparalleled professionalism and  inspiring “get it done” work ethic.  Through your effort, dedication, and sacrifice the Census Bureau is well positioned to adapt to a rapidly changing future that demands new ways of doing business both in the regions and at Headquarters.  The Field Directorate has shown the rest of the Census Bureau how to implement transformational change professionally, on time, and under budget.  The ongoing effort to transform how we manage our reimbursable surveys and the work being done by the Center for Adaptive Design rely on your innovations.  The entire organization owes each and every one of you that worked on this Field realignment our gratitude and respect.

Finally, a special thanks to all the employees that worked in one of the six closing offices.  This realignment was especially difficult for you.  While we were able to find jobs for many of you in other Census Bureau locations, or assist others finding jobs in your local area, others are retiring or still looking for employment.  Yet, each one of you carried out your responsibilities throughout the realignment. Thank you for your notable accomplishments and your many years of dedicated service.  I wish each and every one of you only the best.

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3 Responses to A New Era Begins For Our Field Directorate

  1. sean davis says:

    It is sad that the closings are happening and hope that it was the right thing to do. When I first heard of the closings, I thought that due to the geographical size of the Boston Region, I had thought that it should have stayed open where they had a really good understanding of logistics of dealing with such a vast geographical area which included harbor islands of the coastal states involved, most of New York State and the logistics of dealing with Puerto Rico.

    I worked at the Boston Regional Census Center for 2 years during the 2010 census as their mail/supply clerk and enjoyed my time there to the point I had hoped to one day work at the Boston Regional office which can’t happen now.

  2. norma rivas ricci says:

    I wish all of the staff who are closing the offices the very best in 2013.
    To say Census employees and those in the field and regional offices are a very special group of people, is just the beginning, they are exceptional!! The team work is tremendous.
    I have worked three Census (1990,2000 & 2010) two of those from the Detroit Regional Office and have fond memories of all of them.
    I wish all of you the very best in the New Year and in the future at the Census Bureau.

    fondly,
    NORMA

  3. Linda Baker says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Mr. Mesenbourg.

    Driving into the Dallas RO for the last time this morning was reminescent of a song lyric from MacArthur Park…”Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don’t think that I can take it/’Cause I’ll never have that recipe again…”

    From my perspective as a 27 year employee of the Dallas Regional Office, my belief in the good work done by the Census Bureau will always remain. Whether the Bureau will save money by closing six brick and mortar offices over time will be a moot point.

    It is done.

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