Now firmly entrenched in her civilian career as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program Chief at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), US Army veteran Michele Carter served 23 years of enlisted and commissioned military service in the US Army Reserve and National Guard. She retired as a Major in the Chemical Corps in 2008. Began in 2004, her WisDOT Civil Rights career has grown progressively.
“My strategic thinking, leadership skills and hands-on approach helped implement innovative stakeholder-inclusion practices within WisDOT’s road construction industry resulting in the highest DBE and minority construction workforce participation levels in its history,” Michele says.
Born, raised and educated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Michele graduated from Hamilton High School in 1984 to begin side-by-side military and civilian careers. In 1988, as a college student, she became a charter member of Omicron Xi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. From Cardinal Stritch University, she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology in 1991, following this to date with 34 graduate credits towards a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology.
Michele’s military career began with the 757th Transportation Battalion, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She advanced through the ranks from Private to Staff Sergeant. With her commanding officer’s recommendation for commissioned service, she attended Officer Candidate School at the Wisconsin Military Academy and transitioned from an enlisted soldier to a commissioned officer in 1993.
Her commissioned military service included assignments as Battery Commander, Chemical Staff Officer, and Signal Platoon Leader. Her decision to join a tactical combat arms unit and pursue training in the Chemical Corps in resulted in her being the only African-American female in a leadership position among over 1,800 soldiers in her brigade for more than ten years.
As a commissioned officer with Military Occupational Specialties employment, Major Michele Carter chose and developed skill set proficiency in Personnel Administration (75B), Administration Specialist (71L) and Military Law (71D). These skill sets, as invaluable career resources were enhanced by training from two US Army Chemical Schools at Fort McClellan, Alabama and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for Basic Officer Leader’s and Advanced Courses on defense techniques against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons and/or threats.
During her military career, she received more than ten awards for exemplary service and distinguished achievement including the Army Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and numerous Army Achievement Medals.
Michele’s WisDOT career has been dedicated to equity and compliance principles. She successfully implemented the DBE program at WisDOT by conducting community-based training to move women into nontraditional careers and managing construction-training programs.
Under Michele’s leadership, the WisDOT DBE Program has earned national recognition for its innovation with megaproject strategies and labor development initiatives. Her awards and recognitions from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) include the National Civil Rights Achievement Award in 2005 and the National Civil Rights Symposium Recognition for Excellence in Program Administration in 2010. Between the AASHTO recognitions, she received the US DOT Federal Highway Administration’s Award for Civil Rights Partnership in 2008 and a State of Wisconsin Certificate of Honorable Mention for the Virginia Hart Award in 2009.
Michele admits that her mother and grandmother are her role models and motivation. Her mother insisted that ‘doing nothing’ was not an option. Her 86-year old Grandmother reminds her of their legacy of fortitude, responsibility and respect.