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Shipyard Spotlight: Kim Zaner

By Michael Brayshaw, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Lead Public Affairs Specialist | July 11, 2019


It only makes sense Kim Zaner would believe in karma. 

After all, this Nuclear Quality Division (Code 2350) Administrative Assistant’s personal motto is “if you be kind and show people appreciation, they will go above and beyond for you.”  Proving her motto out, Zaner was recently honored as Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) Administrative Professional of the Year flanked by smiling and supportive co-workers. 

Thriving on the unpredictability of any given day and being able to work with others both inside her code and around the shipyard, Zaner assists new employees joining her division, mentors other NNSY administrative assistants, ensures proper records management, serves as divisional security coordinator, handles IT issues, and coordinates her work group’s social gatherings. 

“I work with the best people in the shipyard, I attribute my award to them,” Zaner said.  “They’re like family to me.  When you feel appreciated every day, you want to be a better employee.” 

Zaner even has NNSY to thank for her actual family.  A lifelong native of Hampton Roads, she started at the shipyard in 1984, shortly thereafter meeting Gerry Zaner, now a Nuclear Material Division Branch Head.  The two married in 1986.  Zaner worked in Code 2300 before leaving in 1993 to be a full-time mom for her two daughters.  After working at a catholic school as receptionist for nine years, she returned to NNSY and Code 2300 in September 2016.  Since then, NNSY’s Nuclear Quality Division has since been all the better for it. 

Exhibiting a natural tendency to resolve issues others might overlook, Zaner has assisted her supervisors with everything from obtaining legible shipyard maps for a work project, ordering a bulletin board to organize papers that were tacked to a wall, and even getting a more comfortable chair for a Code 2350 manager.  Describing herself as “kind, happy, and friendly,” she instills those feelings in the 30 or so employees that comprise her division. 

She’s been called the “master morale booster” coordinating group events for monthly meals, birthday parties and observances like Boss Day.  Asked why that’s important to her, Zaner said, “first of all, we’re auditors, so telling people what they need to improve is not an easy job.  It’s important for them to relax, talk about things other than work, and not always be in auditor mode.  That’s why I like to make them smile.” 

If Zaner seems like the Florence Henderson of Norfolk Naval Shipyard, it’s no coincidence that her co-workers affectionately dub her “Mom.”  The closest Zaner comes to being bad is her occasional indulgence in french fries and ice cream.  She also sheepishly admits to liking the TV show The Bachelor.  But more likely than not during this time of year, you’ll find her outside where she finds peace in planting and contentment in caring for her flower gardens.

In nominating Zaner for the award, then Code 2350 Division Head, Tatiana Sierra Diaz said “her presence alone makes work feel like home.  To some of us, she is our ‘Mom’ and to others, she is our close friend.  No matter what is on her plate, she always greets us with a kind heart and a warm smile creating a jubilant start to the day.  She is full of cheer and bends over backwards to provide help.  She exemplifies C.O.R.E. values.”

Code 2350’s Acting Division Head Chris Brown agreed.  “We love Kim!” he said. “Getting her was the best thing we ever did for improving the morale of our entire division.  In addition to going above and beyond her duties, she strives every day to make us feel at home, exhibiting Care-Ownership-Respect-Excellence exceedingly well.” 

Zaner shows Care by sharing opportunities for others to develop their potential, exhibits Ownership by seeing every problem as an opportunity to learn, improve, innovate and teach, and embodies Respect by constantly uplifting and valuing others.  “We talk about the C.O.R.E. values a lot,” she said.  “If you show C.O.R.E. in your job, you’re going to be happier and have a better day.  I’ve been told I radiate happiness, and you want to keep that up when people look to you to brighten their day.”