Chris Long arrived at NIEHS in November 2007, to become the deputy associate director for management. In the years since, he has overseen a full slate of high-profile projects, including the transformation of lab corridors and break rooms in 2011 and groundbreaking for the institute’s net-zero-energy warehouse earlier this year.
Last October, Long’s role expanded when he became the acting NIEHS executive officer. Now, the acting title is no more. On Aug. 7, Chris Long was officially named NIEHS associate director for management, also known as the executive officer (EO).
“This was an important decision, and the institute had to get it right. I’m honored to be chosen,” Long said of his promotion.
Supporting an agency
Long says his focus will be on finding new ways for his office to support everyone at the institute. “Our primary function in OM [Office of Management] is to equip our employees — be they scientists, administrators, or contractors — with the administrative tools they need to further the NIEHS mission,” he said. “That’s a big customer base with a huge volume of requirements, but our office has always been up to the challenge.”
One of the first changes Long has in store will be the conversion of the group’s internal newsletter, The Grapevine, into a blog called OM Connection. This will help the office share information in a more timely fashion.
“Let’s say our Administrative Services Branch wants to offer training on the institute’s telework program,” he said. “With a blog, we’ll be able to tell people about the course as soon as it’s announced, rather than waiting a month for our next newsletter to arrive. This gives folks more time to sign up, while making it easier for them to learn about a service that could benefit them greatly.”
A Carolina son
A native of the area, Long lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, until age 8, when his family moved to Michigan. After that came stints in Burlington, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., before he returned home in 1987 for a job with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There Long oversaw design and construction of the agency’s campus across the lake from NIEHS.
“Talk about an exciting time,” he recalled. “Building that facility was an enormous project with a thousand details. But seeing it through was one of the highlights of my career.”
Long earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). While there, he met his wife, Re Hatem. Their son and daughter also attended UNC, though both migrated to Duke University for additional studies.
“Basketball season is a very interesting time around our house,” he joked, referring to the longtime rivalry between UNC and Duke.
Building a culture through service
Long believes that the overall success of any organization hinges on its culture, something that starts at the top with leadership.
“To feel effective in a management job is to be engaged, and to feel like you’re meeting needs through your team,” he said. “From a leadership standpoint, that often means stepping back and letting others take the reins. This fosters creativity, which leads to new solutions for everyone. That’s the kind of culture I want for OM.”
(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)