Have you ever felt like you’re playing checkers, while the person you’re talking to is playing chess? If not, ask Courtney De Pol about her career journey, and she’ll stitch together seemingly disparate experiences from Annapolis, Maryland; Kanagawa, Japan; Corpus Christi, Texas; and currently Manatee County into an incredible narrative that will, in the end, feel like it couldn’t have happened any other way.
This is De Pol’s superpower: taking on a complex situation, focusing intently on a solution and putting the pieces together in a way that gets her to exactly where she needs to be.
It’s how she turned an engineering degree from Vanderbilt University into a project management job at a construction company in Washington, D.C., and then turned that into a career as a civilian leader on U.S. military bases worldwide, including Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan.
“I’ve had to recreate myself,” she explains. Fortunately, she’s good at that. Everywhere she’s gone she’s been given more responsibility, and each time she’s handled it with aplomb. For example, while serving at Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas, she was named general schedule (GS) supervisor of the Year by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) for the entire Southeast region.
Earlier this year, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi received the Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence, which recognizes the individuals who most effectively operate and maintain U.S. military installations. That’s the base where, until recently, De Pol served as deputy public works officer, the lead civilian reporting to an active duty military officer.
These days, De Pol serves as the deputy administrator for Manatee County. She was unanimously approved for the role in June, at which time commissioner Vanessa Baugh described her as “exactly what the county needs.”
De Pol has managed all these successes while doing three things at once: She has often had to move locations, sometimes to far away places, to support her husband’s career; and she is also the mother of two daughters, ages 3 and 7. “There’s so much pressure to be so many things,” she says. But those pressures — gifts, she would say — have given her the opportunity to reveal the chessmaster she truly is.
City of residence: Bradenton
Employer: Manatee County Government
Title: Deputy county administrator
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
Years in the area: one
Marital status/children: Married, two daughters
Alma mater/degree: Vanderbilt University/B.A. in engineering (civil engineering major, mathematics minor)
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Chamber of Commerce Manatee Young Professionals
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Company office
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Or the weirdest task you've ever been assigned? English teacher at a Japanese preschool — I spoke no Japanese and the children spoke no English. It was incredible how well we still understood each other!
What's your top tip for being productive? Work smarter and not harder. I am a firm believer in the 80/20 rule: 80% of results comes from 20% effort. I start my day by making a list and handle my most important and impactful 20% first. This makes me feel more accomplished and ready to tackle the bigger, more involved tasks throughout the day.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Professional organizer. Since we moved around so much with the military (my husband was active-duty), I grew to love packing, unpacking and reorganizing/decorating our numerous homes!
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Spending time with my family. Lately we've been lounging on the couch and watching Top Gun: Maverick on repeat.
What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it? Staying at Giraffe Manor in Kenya. I'm waiting until my daughters are a bit older so they can fully appreciate it.
What's your favorite podcast? I have two: "Freakonomics" and "The Joe Rogan Experience"
At what percentage on your phone do you start to get Low Battery Anxiety? 10%. I keep chargers everywhere just in case.
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Safari, Tesla, Instagram
What books are you reading now? The Tipping Point for the second time. Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes gave a copy to everyone in county leadership. It's a great book.
What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? I love EDM, particularly when I'm working out.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Hilary Swank or Cheryl Hines.
Where is your happy place? My massage chair. My family calls it the thinking chair, ha ha.
Describe yourself in three words: Driven, vivacious, loyal.
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Scott Hopes, Manatee County administrator and my boss. He hired me to bring a fresh outside perspective to the county. Since my onboarding, he has continued to inspire and encourage me, while still giving me the latitude I need to make real change.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor?
1. Work/life balance is critical. Work hard at work, but when you are home, be present for your family.
2. Education matters. While experience is important, education sets the foundation for your success and develops critical thinking.
3. Create win-wins and negotiate for success. Work collaboratively with others to make the best decisions possible. For us to win, someone does not have to lose.