Young Professional 2022: Ashley T. Morris

Ashley Morris

Ashley T. Morris

Deputy Assistant Manager for Business and Financial Operations and Deputy Chief Financial Officer
U.S. Department of Energy

Favorite music?
My go-to is country music.

Favorite thing
to do in Tri-Cities?
Boating. We love wake surfing. But we also love the hikes and incredible trails for cycling.

Most disliked food?

First thing you check
on your phone?
Every morning the first think I check is Amazon photos, the daily memories … my family

Age: 39

City of residence: Richland

How long have you worked there? 13 years

Briefly describe your company:

The U.S. Department of Energy is responsible for one of the largest nuclear cleanup efforts in the world, managing the legacy of five decades of nuclear weapons production. At its peak, this national weapons complex consisted of 16 major facilities, including vast reservations of land in Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.

Nowhere in the DOE complex is cleanup more challenging than at the Hanford site. Hanford made more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel for nine nuclear reactors along the Columbia River. Five huge plants in the center of the Hanford site processed 110,000 tons of fuel from the reactors, discharging an estimated 450 billion gallons of liquids to soil disposal sites and 56 million gallons of radioactive waste to 177 large underground tanks. Plutonium production ended in the late 1980s.

The cleanup began in 1989, when a landmark agreement was reached between DOE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Washington state. Known as the Tri-Party Agreement, the accord established milestones for bringing the Hanford site into compliance with federal and state environmental regulations.

After more than two decades of cleanup, progress has been made at Hanford, reducing the risk the site poses to the health and safety of workers, the public and the environment.

Education: Please list your degrees and professional certifications.

Bachelor of Science, business, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Master’s in management and leadership, Webster University.

Briefly describe your job and how you got into it:

I serve as deputy assistant manager for Business and Financial Operations and deputy chief financial officer.

I am responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programs and procedures supporting DOE Hanford.

The organization includes the budget, finance, contracts, contractor industrial relations team, federal cost estimating team, audit coordination supporting the DOE Office of Inspector General/Government Accountability Office audits and oversight of the Hanford Site Workers Compensation Third Party Administration, Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation and Hanford Workforce Engagement Center.

I have been fortunate to have opportunities to be a civil servant across multiple functions within DOE. I have been blessed with the opportunity to garner diverse knowledge and opportunities to engage with stakeholders including the local community and our labor partners.

These opportunities, coupled with my education, have provided me a foundation of knowledge that has allowed me the opportunity to serve in my current position helping to lead an incredible team that supports the foundation work of what is done at the Hanford site.

How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? 13 years

How did you earn your first dollar?

Well, my first job didn’t actually pay.

Yes, I know, not traditional. My first job with assigned hours and full commitment for me to be there and do my job was being a tour guide at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

I was the only volunteer employee providing tours to hundreds of people a day representing the U.S. Olympic Committee.

I was 14 years old working alongside college students and mid-career professionals. Other than my work today, this was by far my favorite job and not just because of the cool factor but because I was giving back to everyone who came seeking to understand and see our Olympic center and the athletes.

I am thankful and proud of the opportunity I had.

What professional lessons, if any, have you learned during the pandemic?

The pandemic was an interesting, dynamic, fluid time for all of us.

I would say the most significant thing for me was rooted in something that is incredibly important for me and that is the human aspect – the people.

The pandemic emphasized that each and every one of us has a personal situation and they are all unique and special.

The human aspect of work and being there for your teammates to help not only lead them but help them manage both professional and personal commitments, though the uniqueness of the pandemic, was very important for me.

The pandemic highlighted a need for my family and for me to be there in a way that we could. This included supporting not only the people I work with but our community.

My husband and I made it a priority to continue to eat out (although this was order, pick up, and eat at home) at our local small businesses.

This commitment to support our local businesses remains a priority for us today. Some of our favorites are Rattlesnake Mountain Brewery (aka Kimo’s), Endive Eatery and Sporthaus.

What was your dream job as a child?

This is a difficult question to answer.

Honestly though, I can say I didn’t have a dream job. I have enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer early as a child, thanks to my parents, and this clouded what I thought I wanted to do in the future.

Money, power, all those things seem alluring when you’re young, but there was always something underneath that didn’t feel right about all of that. It wasn’t until I was a junior in college that I had the opportunity to shadow the human resources director at Peterson Air Force Base that I realized that giving back and being a civil servant was the place I needed to be.

After that opportunity, I was offered an internship and the rest is history. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity both professionally and also personally, because it provided the opportunity to meet my husband, who is a career civil servant as well (now retired).

Tell us about your community involvement/community service:

I feel very connected to the community through my work as a civil servant supporting DOE and the Hanford mission.

I have been a career civil servant for the last 18 years, first supporting the Air Force in Colorado. Throughout the years, I have had opportunities to engage with the community through my career as a senior advisor supporting HAMMER, working with our labor partners both HAMTC and the building and construction trades, and a graduate of the Fire Ops 101 course where I had the humbling experience of understanding what our incredible firefighters do and what they need to be most effective to do their jobs.

The bottom line for me as a professional is giving back to my community and the nation by being a career civil servant has been a choice and a lifestyle that I wouldn’t change.

On a personal side, as my daughter gets older (she’s now 15) our community engagements are also changing. She has become an avid climber, cyclist and is now doing triathlons.

These activities are allowing us new opportunities to engage with the community and we as a family are looking forward to what this will bring.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

I really appreciate this question.

If you asked anyone that I work with, what is important to me outside of work, they would say my family.

Being there for your family is No. 1 for me and is intimately tied with the human aspect I mentioned earlier.

In every new job that I have taken, I have made it a priority up front to have a discussion with my supervisor about the importance of being there for my family. I have a daughter, five stepchildren and three grandchildren.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow will only happen once. I can’t have them back or a do-over. I feel blessed to have realized this early in my career. The early, honest conversations have afforded me the chance to be there for my family every step of the way.

List any awards/honors you have received:

I don’t have a list to include here. But upon reflection on answering this question, I am proud to say this... Choosing to be a civil servant is a choice that I am proud of and being a civil servant is better than any award/honor that I could ask for.

Do you have family? Pets?

Yes. I am a proud mother of my daughter and a part of my stepchildren’s and grandchildren’s lives.

This year, my daughter completed a century bike ride, and recently a triathlon and another coming up. It’s a proud mom moment.

During the pandemic, we added a sweet blue merle cockapoo, Bennett, to our family. Earlier this year, we added a second cockapoo, Jake. They are so fun, and we enjoy taking them on hikes to Badger Mountain, Candy, Tapteal, Chamna and the local dog park.

What brought you to the Tri-Cities? Did you grow up here?

I had a previous boss who I worked with in Colorado working as a civil servant for the Air Force who moved to the Tri-Cities to work for DOE.

He was incredible positive and excited about the community and the work we do, and I fortunately had the opportunity to move here and work supporting DOE, our mission and be part of this community.

I wouldn’t change it. In fact, my parents and my uncle have also relocated to the Tri-Cities.