McFadden spins many plates in Hurricane Sandy relief effort

Listen to the full interview of Sammies finalist Marion Mollegen McFadden, senior attorney for HUD’s Disaster Recovery Office, on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, President Barack Obama tapped Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to head up the Hurricane Rebuilding Taskeforce to oversee the recovery effort.

The task force coordinated the work of numerous government agencies in providing relief to the survivors of the hurricane and dispensing the $50 million approved by Congress to help in that effort.

One person who was integral to the task force’s success, according to Donovan, was Marion Mollegen McFadden, HUD’s chief operating officer and later acting executive director of the task force.

“Marion is unique in combining a real breadth of vision with a deep understanding of the way things actually get done in the federal government,” Donovan said.

Richard Reed, a senior vice president of the American Red Cross, also praised McFadden’s work on the task force.

“For Marion, the question was always, ‘How can we work together across the federal government to protect the most vulnerable people depending on us?'” Reed said. “The task force allowed the government to speak with one voice, and Marion was very effective in creating this unity of purpose.”

For her work in leading the massive interagency effort to help the hurricane- ravaged communities, the Partnership for Public Service recently named McFadden as one of the finalists for the 2014 Management Excellence Medal. The award honors federal employees who demonstrates superior leadership and management.

Getting to know Marion McFadden

Federal News Radio asked each of the Sammies finalists five questions about themselves. Here are Marion McFadden’s responses:

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Mission-focused, collaborative and analytical.

What’s the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
“Never be afraid to get your hands dirty” — from Jane O’Leary, my supervisor at the soup kitchen where I volunteered when I was a teenager, when she sent me off to college with a pair of rubber gloves. She also gave me a poster that says, “Always hold firmly to the belief that each one of us can do something to bring some part of human suffering to an end,” which I still have.

Who is your greatest role model and why?
Elton Lester, HUD’s Deputy General Counsel, who, since he started at HUD in 1969, has used the law as a flexible tool for helping the low- and moderate- income people depending on us most. Lawyers can be drawn to saying no, but Elton teaches HUD lawyers always to find the way through policy problems, even if the solution initially proposed doesn’t seem possible. He doesn’t stop until there’s a legally sound solution to any problem.

What’s the last thing you read and what’s next on your reading list?
I just finished “Colorless Tsukuri Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimmage” by Haruki Murakami (loved it). Next up: a child development book so I can better understand what’s going on with my 8- and 9-year-old kids.

What would be the title of your autobiography and why?
The Full Scoop — because working at Ben & Jerry’s in the 1990s taught me to work hard, be kind and create joy in the workplace, and because my access to all that ice cream was the real reason my wife, Suzanne, fell in love with me.

The Management Excellence Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a photo gallery of all the Sammies nominees.

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