Military Veteran Finds Passion in Public Service: Meet NFBPA’s Demetrius Payton
On March 30, 2022, the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), the principal and most progressive organization dedicated to the advancement of black public leadership in local and state governments, will host its Annual Forum in beautiful Grand Rapids, Mich.
The four-day conference allows public service professionals to gain practical and transferable skills they can apply immediately. It was events like Forum that drew Demetrius Payton to the organization. Demetrius Payton (pictured) is a director of infrastructure & operations at CPS Energy.
CPS Energy is the nation’s largest municipally-owned energy utility providing both natural gas and electric service. Serving more than 840,750 electric customers and 352,585 natural gas customers in and around San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-largest city. He is responsible for overseeing the Technical Services department, which includes the Infrastructure Server Team, Network Engineering & Collaboration Team and Data Center & Operations, which includes business process, compliance and patching.
Payton served 15 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He was deployed during Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. Payton retired after 10 years from military service where he served as a commissioned officer in the Medical Service Corps of the U.S. Army Reserves.
Payton, who is originally from Leesville, La., holds a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Business from Wayland Baptist University. Payton also holds a Master of Arts in Computer Resources and Information Management from Webster University. In 2018, he completed the National Forum for Black Public Administrator’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP), a program dedicated to grooming African American managers for the rigors of executive positions in public service organizations.
NFBPA sat down with Payton to talk about his time in the service, challenges faced in civilian employment and inspirations:
How did the military prepare you for your career in local government?
The military allowed me to understand structure and protocol. The military also gave me stewardship experience with resources for our country. I have that same responsibility in my public sector career.
What were some challenges you faced in your career adjusting to civilian work?
I think the biggest challenge was around understanding all of the visibility and transparency required in this civilian job versus my military job. We have a Board and Senior Leadership Team that is required to approve capital procurement.
Three qualities needed to be successful in your role:
My role is director for infrastructure and operations, but I feel that a CIO has to be trustworthy, be able to communicate vision and set the stage for innovation in their organization.
Can you relate your military career to what you want to do next?
I think I always want to serve my community. I left a lucrative paying job in the private sector for an opportunity to work in the public sector. I feel like it’s my calling to serve others.
Who had the greatest influence on you growing up and in your career?
I had several influences that coached and mentored me throughout my military and civilian careers. But if I had to choose one individual, I would say it was my good coach Ralph Miles at the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence. He taught me things about being a good leader, a good teammate and a good human being.
Would you recommend local government after military life?
Local government and politics impact nearly every aspect of our lives. To me, going from the military to local government seems like a natural progression and a way for a member to impact their community.
What job in the military prepared you most for a career in local government / the public sector?
My last role in the military was Battalion S6 Security Officer.
If you could be or do anything else – what would you do or be?
Silly as it sounds, I would love to be an owner of a professional sports team. It’s been my dream since I was a little boy.
What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?
Payton has been married to his wife, Michelle Payton for 32 years. They share three children and three grandchildren. He has been a member of his local church for over 34 years and his passion is fundraising for the American Cancer Society.