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Meet Palencia Mobley, P.E., one of our 2020 Role Models. Palencia is the Deputy Director and Chief Engineer for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Company. She was appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan and approved by the Board of Water Commissioners in January 2016. In her role, she oversees all department operations including engineering, capital construction, field services maintenance and repair, meter operations, fleet, and facilities. Mobley is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Wayne State University with a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is being recognized for her outstanding professional accomplishments and demonstrated leadership throughout her career at this year’s Role Model Dinner.
Here are some clips from her recent conversation with AFG.
Alternative for Girls: For many of the women we serve, AFG provides the support system for them to help them make positive choices. Was there anyone in your life/career who helped guide you in making important decisions?
Palencia Mobley: There is no one more paramount in my life than my mom. She nurtured me in a way that allowed me to grow into my own person and make my own decisions. She was confident that I would be able to find my way in this world.
AFG: Clearly, you have felt inspired to give back to the community. Is there any part of your personal story that has led to this?
Palencia Mobley: I live by the adage “I am my brother’s keeper”. There were so many people, along the way, who helped me become who I am. My mom was a nurse and had to be at work by 7 am. After my parents divorced, the neighbor across the street would let me come over in the morning so I could walk to the bus stop with her son. The love and support of family, and other adults, helped me understand the significance of giving back. I’ve achieved so much, it’s of minimal consequence for me to be able to do for others and give support for others. A closed hand cannot give anything but it also cannot receive anything. My mom taught me that you get what you give out to the world.
AFG: Who are your role models?
Palencia Mobley: Michelle Obama because she carries herself with grace, poise, and the confident assurance to come to the table with her full authentic self. I also admire Lizzo, as a woman who is plus-sized and has been my entire life, Lizzo affirms body positivity and confidence for those of us who don’t often see ourselves represented in mainstream media.
AFG: Which of your accomplishments are you the most proud of?
Palencia Mobley: My career. In my short tenure at the water department, we have been able to accomplish so much. I never say people work for me, they work with me. In three short years, we went from 3-5 miles of water and sewer infrastructure renewal per year and in 2018 we hit 50 miles. It’s been great changing how people feel about the work they perform for the community. I use my own funds to celebrate the hard-working staff of the department. I host an annual holiday dinner as well as a gift card giveaway. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do as a team. People need to understand their importance in the world, and the will show up for every time that connection is made.
AFG: What advice would you give to the young women that AFG serves?
Palencia Mobley: You don’t have to be a product of your circumstance. Despite what may be going on around you, it doesn’t have to consume you. If you stay focused, you can triumph. Through tragedy, you can triumph. I adopted a motto years ago that without struggle and sacrifice there is no success.
AFG: Why do you believe that it is important to empower girls and young women?
Palencia Mobley: As a child, I sang a song called “I am a promise…I am a possibility”. You have to speak truth to power. It’s so important for women and girls to assert who they are. You are fearless, you are strong, you are smart and you are worthy.
The 2020 Role Model Dinner is Thursday, March 26th at Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Click here to learn more or to purchase a ticket.