A Matter of Excellence: The Joy of the Journey

A Matter of Excellence: The Joy of the Journey

Fairness. Integrity. Trust. These are the three values that the Honorable Ventris C. Gibson has founded her life’s work on. These are the beliefs that have shaped her journey and propelled her to this very moment in time. She is a proud parent, grandmother of four, dog mom, and just so happens to be the 40th Director of the United States Mint. She is the first African American to lead the charge. That is a lot of power, influence, and responsibility. But Director Gibson takes it all in stride. She was built for this. For her, it’s always been a matter of excellence. “From my upbringing, there are three things that I’ve embraced in my character personally and professionally, and that is, fairness, integrity, and trust. I call it  FIT.  Anyone who’s ever worked with me will say… this is me all the time. And as I age, it is still just as relevant today as it was when I was 18 years old. I’ve always tried to be as professional in everything that I do, and I still try to maintain that part of me that has the due diligence of professionalism.”

She grew up in Roseland, Virginia - an unincorporated community in Nelson County, Virginia. The eldest of six, she lived on a farm with her five brothers and two loving parents who she fondly recalls “never limited me.” She lived an idyllic and happy life surrounded by the mountains, swinging from trees, getting stung by bees, and was occasionally prone to mischief. “I remember when I would let the hogs out [their pen] and my parents and grandmother being upset.” A close-knit family, they eventually migrated to Washington, D.C., where she attended Frank W. Ballou Senior High School and graduated a year early. Because of the family’s financial situation at the time, the promise of the G.I. Bill, and the values of patriotism and service that had been instilled in her early on, she entered the Navy in 1973. For Director Gibson, this was a defining moment that changed the course of her life. 

“When I first got into the Navy, I felt marginalized because I was an African American woman, and I chose a career field, Air Traffic Control, where there were only a handful of African Americans [she initially chose Journalism, but it was a two-year waitlist]. I felt at a disadvantage at first because I didn’t know that my education hadn’t been the best. Because I had a strong upbringing and parents, I didn’t give up. I continuously applied myself, and I did extras so that I would not be seen or viewed in a marginalized capacity. I went into public service, and I never left because it was something that I wanted to give back.”

The experiences in the Navy opened Director Gibson’s world and her capacity for success. She was stationed in different states and countries, including Sigonella, Sicily, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At the time, she was the 3rd woman veteran, ever to report to Guantanamo Bay. Once she was sent to Air Traffic Control School, she graduated in the Top 10 of her class. She was also awarded for her critical role in various Navy missions. She enjoyed activities like woodworking, automobile painting, basketball, and baseball. She was even a contestant for Ms. Navy in the European Division. It feels safe to say that she not only had fun during this time of her life but also took full advantage of all opportunities and leveraged them. Despite the challenges she faced, she persisted.

Her career spans more than 40 years as an executive and a professional. According to her bio,‘She is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute, Executive Technique, Aspen Institute and the University of Maryland, University College. She is a U.S. Navy veteran who joined the Mint from the District of Columbia government, where she served as the Director of Human Resources (DCHR). Prior to that, Director Gibson served as Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she provided executive oversight and execution of human capital programs and services for nearly 37,000 employees. Her career with the federal government includes leadership roles in the Federal Aviation Administration, where she was Assistant Administrator for Human Resources, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resource Management and its first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resolution Management. She was the VA’s highest-ranking woman veteran and directed human resources management and civil rights programs affecting 230,000 employees.’

Beyond being a highly decorated officer, she is the recipient of the ‘Exceptional and Meritorious Service Awards, Federal Aviation Administration Manager Association’s Leadership Award, National Hispanic Coalition’s President’s Award, and the Northern New Jersey Metropolitan Area’s prestigious “Woman of the Year” award.’ And on Saturday, March 23rd, Director Gibson will receive the President’s Award at the Black Business Association’s 2024 Salute to Black Women Awards Luncheon, which caps off its annual Business Conference featuring a spectacular Vendor Faire. Last year, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass received the same honor. “The award means the world to me. It represents a culmination of my career and dedication to public service, but more importantly, I’ve always been about people. I’m very humbled, honored, and grateful.” Gibson shared. 

One would marvel at her journey. The unabashed courage, confidence, humility, and genuine love she exudes for the people is not an act, it’s just her way. Her role as Director of the U.S. Mint is a presidential appointment that the Senate unanimously confirmed across parties. She is beyond qualified. She is certified. “Most people may not be aware that when I came to the Mint, our revenue, which keeps us functioning, was $4.3 billion. In 2023, we hit $5.3 billion and increased our customer base by several hundred thousand, so we are really working hard to make sure that we do, in fact, connect America through coins. It is so critical to our survival.”

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Founded in 1792, the U.S. Mint is the largest in the world. There are three types of coins that the Mint makes. The first is circulating coins for spending. The second are numismatic coins for coin collecting, and the third are bullion coins for investing. Six facilities produce coins for the U.S. Mint. Headquarters is one, and Fort Knox, our gold depository, is another. Then there are four manufacturing facilities: The San Francisco facility produces numismatic products [coin collecting products]. The Denver facility works on circulating coins and numismatic products. Philadelphia, which is our largest mint, is a five-acre facility that produces the largest percentage of circulating coins and dies for numismatic products. Lastly, the West Point, New York facility is our bullion program for gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. 

 “When it comes to circulating coins, the federal reserve lets us know how much they need from pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, and from that, we fill those orders. Once the Federal Reserve regents receive them, they distribute them further to banks in the United States and to some overseas locations. If circulating coinage ever reduces, for example, the need for 800,000 pennies might fall to 400,000 pennies, then our workforce is trained to crossover to other parts of production, and from that, they can work on other programs such as the American Eagle Program and the American Women Quarters TM Program. At any given time, we have several hundred products being produced. Additionally, anytime we develop a new product, it’s either by legislation from Congress, a continuity of a program, or the introduction of a new product that goes before the Commission of Fine Arts and an advisory committee that reports to the United States Secretary of Treasury, Janet L. Yellen, “explains Director Gibson.

The federal government does not fund the U.S. Mint. The Federal Reserve reimburses its revenue for circulating coins and for the products they sell. The numismatic side of their business is really the future of the Mint. Popular programs like the American Women Quarters TM Program have reignited and ignited a new interest in these collections. Described on the Mint’s website as a ‘four-year program that celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women of the United States. Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the U.S. Mint will issue up to five new reverse designs each year.’ The 2024 cohort includes Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, Patsy Takemoto Mink, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Celia Cruz, and Zitkala-Ša.

“When you think about our history from 1792, we’ve captured people, places, events, and institutions throughout the years, and our coins and metals all tell an American story that has shaped this nation overall. The Mint has also done a lot as it pertains to African Americans in coining. From the 16th Street bombing to sports and civil rights figures, we work with families and sponsoring organizations so that whatever we do on these commemorative coins is collaborative. The U.S. Mint pays surcharges, which are authorized by law, to these families and organizations for community development and expansion of their mission. That is one way we’re reaching out. Since we’ve started the recipient surcharges, The Mint has paid out about $522 million. Another aspect of our work is connecting to our youth. We now have legislation that permits us to focus on our youth, especially through sports, over the next few years. That is huge for us. We are trying to ensure that our youth not only know about how to collect coins but that it can be used as an investment strategy for savings. Those are the kind of things that the Mint is thinking about for the future.” 

Director Gibson has also created outreach positions that go beyond just saying, “Here’s a beautiful coin.” These staff members go into underserved communities to raise awareness about coinage and the Mint’s history. For example, with the upcoming Harriet Tubman coin, the Mint traveled to New Orleans to showcase the designs at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Conference. This is their way of reaching out and letting people know what the Mint is doing and how they plan on including the community in their efforts.

At the time of this interview, the Mint had produced $10.5 billion in circulating coins for the economy. And while Director Gibson cannot predict the future of money, one might argue that the future of the Mint lies in her activism. She ensures that the people acknowledge coinage as a national treasure through her role. By creating the best numismatic products, she engages and educates a new audience of collectors and investors. By protecting our national assets and the workforce that produces it, she is setting yet another standard of excellence.

Director Gibson has lived a storied life, which Harriet Tubman has heavily influenced. She has reverence for all the women who have gone before her, whose shoulders she’s stood on, and who have paved the way for her to be where she is. “I feel fulfilled in making sure your readers know how much the Mint does for the American people. It is such an honor and brings me a lot of happiness. For every design of a coin, regardless of its history, a lot of effort goes into that. I couldn’t be more grateful for the job that I have and serving the people.” 

If you ever get to meet Director Gibson, you will know that the joy of it all has been this journey, one that continues to shape our future and tell our stories.

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