When Valjean Stell-Burns started working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1981, she was in her junior year of college at Savannah State University pursuing a degree in accounting.
“I didn’t know anything about the Corps or the federal system and wasn’t even thinking seriously about a job at the time,” said Stell-Burns. “But a good friend of mine, Leonard Jones, encouraged me to apply for a position through the school’s Office of Career Services.”
Stell-Burns applied and was selected for a student trainee position in the Resource Management Finance Office, and she has been with the Corps ever since.
Now at the pinnacle of her career as Chief of the Internal Review Office for the Corp’s Savannah District, Stell-Burns is retiring after 42 years of federal service.
During her retirement ceremony May 16 at the Savannah District in Savannah, Georgia, Stell-Burns’ current and former colleagues and friends from throughout Corps gathered in person and virtually to honor her and reflect on her contributions to the Internal Review community and the Corps.
“She has always done her job with a big smile and provided continuity throughout the region for many years, and we appreciate that,” said Bob Prince, chief of staff for the Corps’ South Atlantic Division.
Paul Lee, chief of Internal Review for the Corps’ South Atlantic Division thanked Stell-Burns for her contributions to the Corps and presented her with a coin and two-star letter on behalf of SAD Commander Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner. Stell-Burns was also presented with a Meritorious Civilian Service Award and a retirement certificate by Savannah District Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Alex Duffy.
Stell-Burns holds Bachelor of Business Administration and Accounting degrees from Savannah State University, and she completed several advanced courses, Syracuse University Army Comptrollership Program, DoD Lean Six Sigma-Green Belt Certification, and the Financial Management Certification Program. She is a member of the Coastal Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Military Comptrollers and the Institute of Internal Auditors. In addition, she serves as a board member and treasurer for various local community organizations.
Throughout her 42 years with the Corps, Stell-Burns has served in a variety of positions, including serving two years with the SAD Audit Staff at the Corps’ Jacksonville District. She served as an advisor and congressional liaison for the Savannah District on matters relating the district’s civil works and military projects with members of Congress, state, county and local governments, industry, and non-government agencies. She also served on a three-month detail as the District Deputy Commander for Support for the Savannah District, where she managed nine administrative and support offices.
Additionally, Stell-Burns has served as Acting Chief for the Corps’ South Atlantic Division Internal Review Office on several occasions and served as a technical advisor to the Corps’ headquarters Internal Review Office throughout the years. Stell-Burns was also a trainer and subject matter expert for the Corps of Engineers Financial Management System, travel and internal controls.
“I’ve always enjoyed the learning aspect of being an auditor because we are in a position to learn so much about every functional area within the district which has allowed me to be able to do things other than audit,” said Stell-Burns.
During her retirement ceremony, Stell-Burns was lauded for her wealth of knowledge and experience and for her consistency in mentoring, offering guidance and providing support to countless coworkers throughout the years.
“Valjean has always managed things with the highest level of expertise,” said Pat Tucker, chief of Internal Review, USACE Headquarters. “She’s trained so many auditors throughout the years and has done a fantastic job.”
Stell-Burns said that her commitment to the Internal Review Office and passion for auditing has kept her on the job for so long.
“I truly enjoy what I do,” said Stell-Burns. “We’ve had some stressful times, and I’ve particularly enjoyed how we’ve had to come together as a team, working day and night with no hesitation to get things done. There are many occasions when that’s happened over the years, and it’s helped to build many of the relationships that I have enjoyed throughout my time with the Corps.”
When asked about her retirement plans, Stell-Burns said that she doesn’t have any formal plans but looks forward to doing something different. She officially retires June 3, 2023.