SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. --
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District hires LeighAnn Ryckeghem to the newly named Operations Manager position at the Soo Locks, effective July 1.
The Operations Manager, formerly known as the Area Engineer, is responsible for overseeing all Corps of Engineers operations and maintenance activities as well as stakeholder outreach from the Menominee River Watershed in Wisconsin, East across northern Lake Michigan and Huron to the St. Marys River, then West along Lake Superior to Munising, Michigan. The area of responsibility includes maintenance of 13 harbors and offshore channels, maintenance of approximately 70 miles of Federal Navigation Channel in the St. Marys River, and Operation and Maintenance of the Soo Project Office which includes Hydropower, a Class I Visitor Center and the Soo Locks.
“This position is vital to providing reliable public service to the maritime industry, hydroelectric power customers, water resource interests, recreational users and the public,” said Operations Division Chief Marie Strum. “The primary responsibilities include leading all aspects of our mission such as safety, labor relations, public outreach, human resources, budgeting, planning, engineering, scheduling, security, operations, maintenance and managing a workforce of 140 employees.”
Ryckeghem has over 20 years of experience in engineering, construction, and management. She has worked for the Detroit District since 2008 serving in various roles, including Construction Administration Branch Chief, Assistant to the Great Lakes Navigation Team, Value Engineering Program Manager, Project Management Specialist, and Senior Civil Engineer. Ryckeghem has been with the Soo Project Office since 2017 initially serving as Chief of Construction prior to her promotion to the Maintenance Branch Chief in November 2018.
Ryckeghem has a Master of Science in Acquisition and Contract Management from Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
“LeighAnn is well-prepared to lead our team into the future, integrating our Operations and Maintenance team with the exciting activities surrounding New Lock construction,” said Cindy Jarema, Operations & Maintenance Branch Chief and hiring manager for the position. “She brings insightful leadership and strategic thinking to the position.”
“I grew up on the Great Lakes and had frequent visits to the Soo Locks, which is where I first learned about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Ryckeghem said. “After having experience in both the private and public sector I developed a strong appreciation for public service and was fortunate to be hired mid-career with the Detroit District. Working at the district provided me many opportunities to work on complex navigation projects, one of which was the Soo Locks. I have a deep passion for public service with loyalty to the Great Lakes and the Soo Locks missions.”
There are many disciplines Ryckeghem will oversee as the Operations Manager, from skilled trades, operators, and marine plant to professional series such as engineers and program analysts. Organizationally, the Soo Project Office consists of an Executive Branch, Operations Branch, Maintenance Branch, Administrative Section, Hydropower Section, Lock Operations Section, Maintenance & Repair Section, Maintenance Engineering Section, and the St. Marys River Section.
Ryckeghem says she has strong support systems – which have helped contribute to her success. “My family is very supportive of my career, while the Corps of Engineers has consistently invested in me with various training and development opportunities.”
“It is a privilege to serve as the Operations Manager for the Soo Project Office. I look forward to continuing to serve the team, the public and all our stakeholders,” said Ryckeghem.