Kent Morrison is executive director of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany. He has a long-time connection to the base, having served as a Marine before leaving the Corps as a lieutenant colonel. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — Kent Morrison has come a long way in his career. Joining the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 17, he left the Corps as a lieutenant colonel and has since ascended the civilian ranks to become executive director of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.
Joining the Marines in 1974, he retired nearly three decades later. He worked with the base as an active Marine as well, first reporting to MCLB in June 1997 to serve as the executive officer — and eventually the commanding officer — of Headquarters Battalion. Following his retirement, the father of three has worked in various capacities aboard the installation, such as director of Marine Corps Community Services, logistics specialist for Marine Corps Logistics Command and deputy director of the operations and training division, an available biography on him shows.
In a recent sit-down with Herald reporter Jennifer Parks, he talks of his passion for reading and art, how his days as a Marine helped set the framework for his views on leadership, memories of his three boys growing up and how he has attempted to adapt to the changes the U.S. Department of Defense has had to undergo during recent financial circumstances.
Q. What was your very first job?
A. I waited tables at a family restaurant in Americus. I was 13 years old, and I would do that after school for 65 cents an hour plus tips.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?
A. (At a store near the restaurant) I bought a black psychedelic poster. It was the ’60s and I loved art posters. I also loved Mad Magazine. I would buy those posters and put them in my room. I was an art major in college. Art has always been a part of my life.
Q.What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. Let them know you care about them, plain and simple. (If you do), it keeps morale high and stress levels down.
Q. What led you to your current position?
A. I came to Albany as an active duty Marine. I was an executive officer here. I liked the community, and when I retired, I stayed involved in the base.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. A lot of my senior officers and enlisted Marines. I’ve been a Marine all my life, so in theory, those are my mentors.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the recent recession?
A. To ensure we are talking to employees and make sure they are informed … and to make sure we are making the best decisions with the limited resources we have.
Q. If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology — email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs — what would it be?
A. Handheld devices and texting. They are taking so much from society. I was at a family restaurant the other day, and both parents were texting on their phones. We are just missing opportunities to communicate and talk. (All of these things) have value, it’s just how society uses it. (When they are) in the hand or on the face, we are not aware of our surroundings.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. I don’t really have one. I have a Blackberry, but it’s not my favorite. I have a computer, also for a need to communicate. They are all just tools, a means to communicate.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. I have three sons, and we always played basketball to see who washed the dishes at night. It helped Mom, (because) she would always cook. They were brutal; they don’t like to do dishes. It is always something we have done together.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. I just finished “The Guns and Last Light” by Rick Atkinson. I also read The Albany Herald. I read non-fiction almost every night; I don’t think I’ve read fiction in years. I love history.
Q. What is your morning routine?
A. I get up at 5-5:30 a.m. Some days I work out. I have a light breakfast, drink coffee and read the paper. I try to get to work by 7-7:30 a.m.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?
A. I would love to meet Pvt. 1st Class Ralph Johnson. He was an 18-year-old African-American Marine killed in Vietnam in 1968. He was a Medal of Honor winner because he pulled a grenade under his chest to save (his fellow Marines). At the exact moment he needed to, he saved others regardless of race and had three seconds to make that decision. I visited his grave site; I have a photo of it. I speak about him when I go out.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activities outside of work?
A. Woodworking, and I like to hunt and get outdoors.
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. None. Did I make bad decisions? Absolutely. If I look back on my life when making a decision, I had all the facts I had that day to make the decision at the time. I can learn from it and move forward. I try not to do that (dwell on those moments). That doesn’t mean I haven’t made bad ones.
Q. Best and worst things about your job?
A. The best is the people. I have a group of employees that respect each other. We spend more time with each other than our own families. I’m still getting to be around U.S. Marines, and to those who have left the Corps, it is a blessing for me to be a part of the Marine life. The worst is the uncertainty of the future, with sequestration and budget cuts. It’s a hard aspect that affects peoples’ lives.
Q. What was the most beneficial course you took in school?
A. The most beneficial course I took was not in school, but in the Marine Corps — Mine Management of Competition Shooting. (With that course) you can talk yourself into anything you want to be and do. (It allowed me to put) a positive spin on things. The course allowed me to look at things a lot differently.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. A Georgia State Trooper. I always wanted to be a state trooper. I deeply respect our state troopers. I respect all law enforcement, but the state troopers always impressed me.
Q. Where do you see yourself on the first anniversary of your retirement?
A. Volunteering more, traveling and having fun. I wanted a regimented program when I retire. I don’t want to wake up in the morning and say “What am I going to do today?”
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. Compassion and moral courage. Compassion because (one time) we had to relieve a lieutenant, and it was my responsibility to do it. A (higher officer) asked me how it went and I said it was hard. He said “It was supposed to be.” Moral courage (because it) allows you to make those decisions and do it with respect.
Q. What kind of music do you most like listening to?
A. Bluegrass gospel, ’60s rock and ’60s rhythm and blues. (I listen to) some ’70s, but mostly old time.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. That we will grow closer together as a community. I know we are (going to).
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
A. The ones we took as a family. My wife, the boys and I would go to an amusement park or beach. We did that once a year. We always made a point to do something with the boys, and those were fun. Those memories are great. We would eat sandwiches in the car and go to Disney World.
Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?
A. The amount of data and information (presented to) leadership on a daily basis; the amount of information and ability to interpret. When I was a young Marine, I had a message board and an in box.