As a college student, Mamie Kinzig’s career path was influenced by a woman excelling in the predominately male field of law enforcement.
“Gale Buckner was a decorated Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and I attended one of her homicide case presentations,” said Kinzig. “She was the first woman who personified the professional goals I set for myself – to become a law enforcement officer and remain authentic to myself as a woman.”
An Atlanta native, Kinzig’s career climb started in Rockdale County, Georgia, as the Director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program. Her path continued with stops at the GBI and the U.S. Secret Service before joining Customs and Border Protection (CBP), where she served as the Executive Program Manager of the National Frontline Recruitment Command. Managing recruitment efforts for the offices of Air and Marine, Border Patrol and Field Operations, she advocated for increased diversity within the ranks of CBP’s law enforcement work force.
“There were fewer women in leadership positions while I was beginning my federal law enforcement career,” said Kinzig. “Many of the decisions regarding my promotions were decided by men. I made a conscious decision to work hard to gain the trust of my peers and supervisors by proving I was capable, competent and dependable. When I used my voice to seek advancement opportunities, it was completely bolstered by a performance track record of hard work and proven results.”
She also credits GBI Special Agent in Charge (SAIC) Charles “Charlie” Robertson for helping her develop her professional persona.
“Charlie not only gave me a seat at the table, but allowed and expected me to have a voice at the table,” remembered Kinzig. “He was a believer of hard work and competency and was a proven champion of women in the workplace. I witnessed that advocacy on numerous occasions by decisions he made, and I always took notice. The men around me also took notice and oftentimes followed his lead.”
Now as SAIC of TSA’s Dallas Office of Investigations (INV), Kinzig strives to manage her staff with all the qualities she remembered the accomplished Buckner and Robertson as having — confidence, loyalty to her workforce, competence, honesty, authenticity and approachability. She oversees an office of talented, dedicated investigators and a highly skilled investigative analyst who conduct complex criminal investigations involving employees in the aviation and transportation arena, with an emphasis on insider threat investigations.
One of Kinzig’s proudest achievements as Dallas SAIC is being able to grow diversity within her own ranks.
“Action after meaningful words must occur throughout the year, not just during National Women’s History Month,” explained Kinzig. “I am extremely proud that we are comprised of 50% women in the INV Dallas Field Office, but our work is not done. With the support of INV Assistant Administrator Kimberley Thompson, our office continues to lead the way with women’s recruiting efforts for TSA at every level and job description.”
The ongoing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility conversation, in Kinzig’s opinion, includes everyone.
“The future of TSA will come to rely heavily on how we address these issues now,” said Kinzig. “We must continue highlighting and championing our diverse workforce to ensure that women are leading part of the decision making processes. The tough decisions made by our agency’s leaders should never be made in a vacuum.”
And the conversations need to broaden and gain traction beyond work boundaries, according to Kinzig.
“You must ask yourself, ‘What am I doing about it? What are the solutions?’ Each day we must champion and encourage the women around us. We must also have these conversations with our sons, brothers, fathers, male co-workers and leaders.”
The resolve she carries came from the people who built her foundation.
“I owe my grit and determination to my mother and her sisters. The women of their generation were extremely tough and resilient and were the glue that held society together. I had dreams to accomplish things that, perhaps, they were not afforded opportunities to accomplish.”
Why highlight Women’s History Month?
“It is a purposeful observance celebrating women’s varied and often under-recognized accomplishments throughout history. When we set designated time aside to honor women who sacrificed and overcame obstacles, it helps reinforce the importance of continuing to push forward. While we all recognize new opportunities for women in the private and public sectors, there remains a responsibility that we all share. There is still lots of work to do. It is my hope and pledge as a leader in TSA to continue to empower, hire, coach, mentor, guide, encourage and hire women. Striving to do better is a legacy we can all leave behind, if we choose to do so.”
What I do matters
“The work we do in TSA Investigations matters because we promote the integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of TSA's workforce through objective and independent investigations. INV conducts criminal and/or administrative investigations of TSA employees, entities and persons contracted by TSA, and regulated parties; integrity testing in passenger, baggage, and cargo operations; criminal and counterintelligence polygraph services, and forensic computer analysis; and manages the TSA “Hotline” for reports of misconduct.
“Employee misconduct erodes the public trust in TSA, is detrimental to good order and negatively impacts morale. Addressing these issues in a timely and professional manner makes for a healthier workforce and a safe and stable operating environment. Conversely, clearing our employees, entities and persons contracted by TSA and regulated parties of alleged misconduct is equally as important. INV also investigates passenger assaults on our officers and pursues criminal and civil charges against those passengers.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs