Parsons Begins Tenure as Center Director
William "Bill" Parsons looks forward to the challenges, opportunities and people he'll encounter as the ninth Kennedy Space Center director, and he'll rely on his steadfast leadership values to guide him.
"We need to be responsible, we need to be accountable, and we need to be credible with all of our stakeholders," he said. "I believe in honesty and integrity. They are the basic values I have always lived by. I believe in treating all people with respect. I expect everyone to be professional and respectful with how we conduct ourselves. I consider it the foundation for leadership."
Image to left: A handshake signifies the change of leadership at NASA's Kennedy Space Center as William W. Parsons (left) assumes the role as the facility's ninth director, succeeding James W. Kennedy (right), who is retiring from the agency. Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Parsons has served in various NASA leadership capacities during difficult and exciting times. When appointed as Space Shuttle Program manager in 2003, he led the post-Columbia accident return-to-flight activities for the agency and played a major role in the success of Discovery's STS-114 mission.
In 2005, he assumed duties as Stennis Space Center director for a second time (the first was in 2002) to lead hurricane recovery efforts at Stennis in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
"The biggest thing I've learned is that the civil service and contractor work force responds to adversity in the most amazing way," he explained. "Regarding Columbia, they responded with rigor, discipline and superior engineering to fix problems. Following Hurricane Katrina, the agency encouraged me to take care of the people at Stennis and Michoud. It's great to work for an agency that takes care of its people. If we take care of our people, the mission will be accomplished."
According to Parsons, a task facing workers today is appropriately juggling the diverse, but equally important, missions at Kennedy.
"We're flying out the shuttle, gearing up for Constellation and supporting other important responsibilities, such as completion of the International Space Station and launching expendable launch vehicles," he said. "We need to keep focused on all these priorities. The work force is going to be enthusiastic about new programs and it's human nature to want to work on the future, but we need to do so while staying focused on current goals."
To prepare for the future and unify senior managers, he will lead a three-day off-site meeting. The group will spend time aligning Kennedy's role, responsibilities and goals with the agency's strategic plan.
Parsons said a combination of mentors and friends helped to guide him throughout his career. His predecessor, Jim Kennedy, assisted in preparing Parsons for the director role by sharing all leadership responsibilities with him.
"I have a great deal of energy and enthusiasm about the role, but I have anxiety about following in the footsteps of people I admire and respect," he said. "I don't want to let them down, but mostly I don't want to let down the people of Kennedy Space Center. I want to gain their trust and confidence through the decisions I make in the future."
Overall, Parsons considers his grandfathers his most powerful influences.
"They were hard-working, simple, self-taught, strong, southern gentlemen," he said. "When faced with a tough decision, I ask, 'What would my grandfathers do?' "
Although a Mississippian, Parsons joined NASA at Kennedy in 1990 and considers this center his home in the agency.
"It's an unbelievable honor to represent the men and women of Kennedy Space Center. I couldn't have dreamed it any better," he said. "The people here have proven themselves and I'm confident in their capabilities. We've been given a great vision for the agency and for the future. As Mr. Kennedy has said, 'the future is bright.' I look forward to being part of this noble task."
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NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center