This Career Employee who does good for her Country–Patrice M. Kelly

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Key DOT Office Gets New Director


Politicians, the media and a certain POTUS have disparaged the people who serve the nation by working for the government. Drain the Swamp was an election slogan, but here is an example of a civil servant who makes a difference.




Patrice Kelly was named director of the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC) in the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation on Oct. 11,2017. ODAPC advises the Secretary of Transportation on national and international drug testing and control issues. The Director advises the Secretary on rules related to the drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in all of the DOT modes- aviation, trucking, railroads, mass transit, pipelines, and other transportation industries.

The Office publishes regulations and provides official interpretations on drug and alcohol testing, including how to conduct tests, and the evaluation and treatment procedures necessary for returning employees to duty after testing violations.  The Office also coordinates the Department’s involvement with the President’s National Drug Control Strategy annually.


ODAPC’s mission is of increasing importance to transportation safety, plus its testing regime is relied upon by the DOT regulated companies—from small entities to major companies spread over continents. the selection of Ms. Kelly to this executive position is an appointment of national significance.

How did this woman qualify for leading this technical organization which so heavily impacts the lives of over 5 million private sector employees working in safety-related positions?

Patrice has served in ODAPC since 2007, having been named the Deputy Director in 2008 and the Acting Director in 2013.  She serves as the lead expert on a highly experienced team of antidrug and alcohol misuse prevention policy advisors.

Before joining the Office of the Secretary, Patrice served at the Federal Aviation Administration as the Deputy Division Manager of the FAA’s Drug Abatement Division, as the Senior Attorney for Aerospace Medical Issues, and as an FAA attorney.  Patrice began working with FAA’s industry drug and alcohol testing regulations as an FAA enforcement attorney more than 20 years ago.  She was the first FAA attorney to revoke an air carrier’s certificate for failure to implement drug and alcohol testing, and she initiated the FAA’s first civil penalty cases enforcing the drug and alcohol testing regulations.

In her roles at the FAA and the Office of the Secretary, Patrice has worked extensively on the changes to the drug and alcohol testing regulations since 1996.  Patrice has been instrumental in policy-making, litigation, intergovernmental agency working groups and advising foreign governments regarding drug testing.  In her role as the Department’s decision-maker, she issued the first Public Interest Exclusion against a noncompliant service agent issued in the history of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing regulations.  In addition, she has been a featured speaker at many industry association meetings.

A graduate of Boston College, and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Patrice received a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center.  She is admitted to the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania Bars.

Patrice has served in all three branches of the Federal Government.  In the Legislative Branch, she worked for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy in his office in Boston, Massachusetts.  In the Judicial Branch, Patrice worked for the Supreme Court of the United States.  In the Executive Branch, in addition to her work at the FAA and in the Office of the Secretary, Patrice has served at the United States Department of State.

In private industry, Patrice worked on Wall Street in Employee Relations and later in Corporate Bond Trading.  After graduation from Georgetown University Law Center, she  practiced law as an associate in transportation law firms in Washington, DC, before beginning her career with the FAA.

Patrice has a passion for management and for mentoring others.  In her second year as a manager at the FAA, she was nominated for “Manager of the Year” in an organization of more than 700 employees.  In addition, Patrice brought more than 120 unpaid interns from law schools across the United States to serve in the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel in a well-recognized internship/seminar program that she developed.  One of her proudest accomplishments was being named “Mentor of the Year” by the FAA’s Chief Counsel’s Office during a time when she was not an employee of that office.  She firmly believes that true leadership is inspiring others to lead and not to follow!


Patrice’s record of public service is a clear example of someone who has dutifully followed President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural intonation:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.


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