Sandra Davis, Fort Belvoir Garrison Ombudsman, offers residents direct communication to the Command team when all options of escalation have been exhausted.
Meet Your Fort Belvoir Ombudsman
FORT BELVOIR, Va. – With a resident population of close to 23,000, it is important that Service members and their Families here have a direct line of communication to the garrison command team to report housing related problems.
Meet Sandra Davis, Fort Belvoir Garrison’s housing Ombudsman. As Ombudsman, Davis advocates on behalf of the installation’s tenants with both the garrison directorates and the privatized housing partner who run the Villages at Belvoir. She reports daily to the garrison command team, briefing issues ranging from delayed routine maintenance requests, displaced Families, and major housing incidents. She is also adept at conflict resolution and mediation, an important requirement for an ombudsman.
Davis brings over 20 years of experience to the position, including most recently as the liaison for military privatized housing at Fort Meade, Md. With 15 villages scattered around almost 9,000 acres, Davis admits she is still learning every day, but relishes the challenge of serving as Ombudsman at Fort Belvoir.
“It has been a smooth transition from the privatized side of military housing to becoming an Army civilian employee,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing even more to help those who are in need of quality housing, but there’s a lot that still needs to be done. I’m trying to take small steps to make a sustainable difference.”
As Ombudsman, Davis serves as the Garrison Commanders liaison to Belvoir’s village mayors, providing guidance and oversight of the communities through her Facebook page and mayoral meetings. She also ensures the residents are aware of their benefits and community resources, facilitates communication between the command and Families when needed, and responds to issues that have been elevated past the garrison housing office.
“The residents are very important to me because this is where they call home,” she added. “This is where their children play so it must be safe for everyone. I want all who come to Fort Belvoir to know that I am here to serve them.”
Providing safe and dependable housing is in line with one of Col. Joseph Messina’s key priorities as garrison commander, “life, health, and safety of installation facilities, residences and barracks.” For Dr. John Moeller, Deputy to the Garrison Commander, a proactive ombudsman is key to identifying and fixing issues before they become major problems.
“Having an ombudsman like Ms. Davis is vital to our garrison operations and the health and wellbeing of our Service members and their Families,” he said. “She is out in front, solving issues at the lowest level whenever she can. But she always keeps us informed so we can get involved before something gets out of hand. There is no better advocate for our residents here on Fort Belvoir than Ms. Davis.”
Davis said she sees herself first as a problem solver and as issues arise, she thoroughly investigates and gathers information from all sides. Davis then presents that information to the Garrison Command Team and provides recommendations. Once the Command has decided on a course of action, Davis gathers all parties involved and shares the path forward.
“It is not about pointing fingers,” she added. “It’s about getting everyone on the same page so we can continue working together. I want residents to come to me when they have questions or concerns, but they should try to work directly with the (housing) partner or their mayor to see if they can come to an amicable decision before it gets to my level.”
Part of her role when she meets Service members and Families during housing meetings and Village Meet & Greets is explaining her duties. Davis said there is confusion because quite often, she is the first ombudsman the residents have met during their time in the military. She explains there are a few services that an ombudsman cannot provide including transportation, babysitting, financial assistance, and counselling. However, Davis said that she tries to point residents on the proper channels to seek this assistance whenever possible.
“Ms. Davis has been very proactive, taking the initiative to reach out to me to see if there’s anything I need,” said Capt. Eric Schmith, mayor of Dogue Creek Village. “She is there for walkthroughs, she consistently communicates with all the mayors, and whenever I have an issue, she’s there to help. She’s been outstanding.”
Jason Shepherd, Fort Belvoir Deputy Public Affairs Officer