Former Commander of Oakland Naval Supply Center, Kurt Libby, Now Leads Materiel Management
By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs
From his home base on San Pablo Avenue, the former head of the world's largest naval supply center now leads the low-profile organization that facilitates business for virtually every campus unit.
Kurt Libby assumed his new position -- as director of Materiel Management -- in July, after a long career in civilian and U.S. Navy business operations.
Though the decentralized campus culture is a sharp contrast to military chain of command, the central mission and business dynamics of running a "supply-side" operation translate well across the civilian-military divide.
The last of Libby's military positions was as commanding officer of the since-decommissioned Oakland Naval Supply Center, which was responsible for purchasing and supplying a $4.5 billion annual inventory of food, provisions and fuel for the entire Pacific fleet.
During his two-year tenure there, the naval supply center won numerous awards -- among them honors for best workplace environment and for effective outreach to Oakland high school students, ex-prisoners and persons with disabilities.
Libby brings to Materiel Management's operations -- which include purchasing, campus supply, small business development, central receiving and fleet services -- values and a management style that proved highly effective at the supply center.
"The job of management is to believe that people want to do a good job," he says. "Your job is to get rid of the obstacles to their doing so."
Ron Coley, assistant vice chancellor for business and administrative services, says he selected Libby as director of Materiel Management primarily based on his values.
"Many of the candidates who applied had the requisite experience and technical competency," Coley says. "Kurt, however, was the only candidate whose values focused on people (their growth and development), customer service, continuous improvement, and sound fiscal management and resource utilization."
Soon after assuming his campus post, Libby instituted new measures to improve response time on purchase orders. Once a week, team leaders responsible for scientific supplies, consulting agreements and fast-track procurements now report on the practical problems behind any unfulfilled orders. Libby himself attends.
"It lets them know that I'm really interested, that it's not just another report," he says. "It's helpful for me because I need to understand the campus processes, and helpful for them because I can help correct problems."
This fall, a series of vendors presented bids for e-commerce services, which would allow the campus to search the marketplace for the best bids on large orders and even hold on-line "auctions" to get goods and services directly from suppliers at greatly reduced rates. He hopes to choose a service early this year and then to seek financing through the budget process.
In the bowels of the vast Marchant Building at 6701 San Pablo -- former home of the Marchant calculator factory -- another of Libby's pet initiatives is in progress: a new training room for the professional enhancement of Material Management's 85 employees.
Also on his radar screen is the goal of channeling more of the university's taxpayer dollars to small business, and to businesses operated by women and minorities in particular.
He calls small business persons, especially minority small businesses, "today's pioneers." Like those who crossed the continent in covered wagons, he says, "disadvantaged, minority and women-owned businesses face seemingly insurmountable odds, yet they persevere in pursuit of their version of the American dream. When you think of the challenge of trying to get a loan, and trying to survive -- I really admire anyone who can overcome such obstacles."
Currently, 60 percent of the total value of campus procurements go to small businesses, and 14 percent of the total to minority- and women-owned operations. Libby says he would like to raise that 14 percent to 20.