Stating Michelle Barczak is leaving a legacy behind is an understatement when describing the departing Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District Chief of Counsel’s 33 years of public service. Ms. Barczak, retiring this December, spent the better part of her career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and first started in the Buffalo District as a Regulatory Attorney.
During her 27 years with the Corps of Engineers, Ms. Barczak had the opportunity to serve in every area of law the organization handled. As she progressed in her career, Ms. Barczak assumed several long-term temporary details in other districts as well. She was the Acting District Counsel in the Huntington District before being selected as the District Counsel in Buffalo. She served previously as the District Counsel for the Afghanistan Engineer District North District, the Acting District Counsel for the Nashville District, the Acting Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Counsel, and the Acting Deputy Chief Counsel for the Corps of Engineers.
“Accepting temporary details allows you to learn new things and recharges you when you return to your official position”, said Ms. Barczak.
“Taking advantage of opportunities in other districts or overseas allows you to travel to places you might not otherwise have seen.”
Prior to working for the Corps of Engineers, Ms. Barczak served as an Army Officer for 6 years. The first 3 years were spent as a military intelligence officer teaching at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. During this time she taught a variety of legal subjects; part of her teaching experience involved educating spies on how to obtain intelligence information legally. For the final 3 years of her military career, Ms. Barczak was a JAG attorney at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
Reflecting on her tenure with the Corps of Engineers, Ms. Barczak cited the introduction of the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) to the Buffalo District’s mission as one of her biggest and most interesting challenges. Because the program was new to the organization, substantial program development was necessary including defining roles, authorities, processes, and coordination among other divisions and headquarters.
Having dedicated so many years to public service, the institutional knowledge that goes with Ms. Barczak is immeasurable. Nonetheless, she has worked diligently to prepare her office to undergo a smooth transition. When asked what advice she would give a potential successor, she stated:
“Be calm and patient in the face of frustration and enjoy the people you work with and for, because they are the best part of the job.”
Ms. Barczak has exciting plans for this new phase of her life. In the short-term, she looks forward to taking care of home projects she’s put off for a long time but in the long-term, she plans to travel extensively and focus on having fun. She has visited over 30 of the country’s national parks and has the ambition to view all of the ones she has not seen yet. One major plan is to take a cruise that circumnavigates Australia.
When individuals like Michelle Barczak retire, there is a resounding sentiment of loss but also one of pride across the organization. Former Buffalo District Commander Lt. Col. Karl D. Jansen stated:
"It was a distinct honor serving with Michelle during my tenure in Buffalo District; I was grateful for her trusted advice and mentorship as our team navigated some tough situations, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her as a person.
“Michelle is also widely admired and respected across our Agency as a subject matter expert, a team player, and a friend. She has served as a steward of her profession by hiring, teaching, and coaching many talented USACE attorneys who will serve the Corps for decades to come—a legacy for which I hope she should be justifiably proud.
“On behalf of countless USACE teammates, I'd like to extend a big Thank You to Michelle for her extraordinary public service, and wish her all of the best for a very happy retirement!"