Alumna’s Amazing Journey to Washington, D.C.
White House HR Executive has Georgia Southern Roots
To say that alumna Dalmyra Price Caesar (’95) is an overachiever may be an understatement. After a remarkable 20-year career in the U.S. Army and serving as Human Resources Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign, she’s now working as deputy director for White House Personnel.
Washington, D.C., is a long way from Savannah, which is where Caesar first worked when she retired as a major with expertise in human resources. After serving as the training and development director at Goodwill Industries in Savannah, Caesar moved to Virginia and transitioned into the political realm.
She landed the job as the Biden-Harris presidential campaign director for human resources. Her team led personnel operations for the 600-member campaign headquarters and 4,000 others across the country. After the election, Caesar moved to the White House.
“It was a blessing to join the campaign team and even more of a blessing to now serve in the Biden-Harris Administration,” Caesar said. “I started working with the administration shortly after Inauguration Day, January 20, which is my birthday.”
The retired officer grew up in the small town of Blakely, Georgia, located in southwest Georgia near the Alabama state line. The only child of her parents, Richard and Dorothy Price, she has fond memories of her life in Blakely. One of her favorites, she recalled, is “writing a letter to the city council about changes that needed to happen within my community and seeing those changes happen. It is such a testament to the power of grassroots organizing”.
LOOKING BACK AT HER UNDERGRADUATE DAYS
Caesar developed her community involvement skills as a student at Georgia Southern. Heavily involved, she was a student ambassador, volunteer, organizer and coordinator of many first-time campus events. She was also president of various organizations including the student chapter of the NAACP and Black Student Union.
“The activities I was involved with while a student at Georgia Southern prepared me for not just the White House, but for every role that I’ve had since graduating,” Caesar said. “Georgia Southern helped me hone my leadership skills.”
Her impact on the University remains to this day. Each year, students on the Statesboro and Armstrong campuses are recognized with the Dalmyra Price Student Leadership Award. It is presented to the leader of a multicultural student organization for their outstanding dedication to leadership, success and development of the organization.
EMBRACING MILITARY LIFE
When she graduated, Caesar didn’t have a job lined up, but she did have student loan debt. Her father had served in the U.S. Army, and before he passed away in April 1995, a month before she graduated, he encouraged her to enlist in the Army.
“The Army at the time offered a student loan repayment program,” Caesar said. “It required that I complete a minimum contract of four years. Within the second year of that four-year enlistment contract, I received the letter stating my student loan was paid in full.”
Though her loans were paid, Caesar found that military life suited her. She applied for officer candidate school shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Imani Danila, at Fort Knox in Kentucky and trained at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia.
“I realized that I loved the Army,” she said. “It allowed me to do things and travel to places I had only seen on the map or read about in books. Not only did I get to travel to some beautiful places, but I was also fortunate enough to bring my mother with me; places I’m sure she would have never visited alone.”
Caesar served at Army bases in Kentucky, Georgia, Colorado, Florida and Kansas. She had deployments in Iraq, Kuwait and Germany. She also earned her master’s degree while rising through the ranks to leadership positions. The alumna loved working with people and focused her career on human resource management.
“When I was stationed overseas, I had a commanding officer who was not people-focused and I decided back then that I would do whatever was necessary to place people first in the organization,” she said. “People are the most valuable resource within any organization, and it was high time organizations like the Army started treating people with care, and I wanted to be a part of that change which is why I chose human resources; to place the human aspects into company operations.”
WORKING FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
The Army veteran leans on her military professional skills to support the President of the United States by directing the staff experience at the White House. A typical day starts at nine in the morning and ends around eight in the evening. Caesar works closely with human resources professionals and other White House Office employees handling personnel operations and priorities.
“I love that I get to meet so many amazing people who do remarkable work on behalf of the American people,” she said. Although she has held her current position for two years, Caesar said she still finds it awe-inspiring to step onto the White House campus. It’s something she never dreamed would happen until a friend reminded her otherwise.
“My best friend, Velicia Lowe, who also graduated from Georgia Southern, shared a letter I sent to her when I was stationed at Baumholder Army Base in Germany,” she said. “That had to be around 1996. In that letter, I stated, ‘I’m going to the White House.’ What prompted me to say that? I do not know but here I stand.”
The experienced human resources professional said the pace of the work is the one thing that has surprised her the most.
“I worked hard in my previous roles in other organizations, but this is a different level of hard work but its mission-focused work which keeps us going and motivated each day,” Caesar said. “The things that keep me going are the stories and dreams of everyday people like me who dream and hope of a better day.”
Ultimately, she recognizes her story is shared by millions of people who are striving to achieve their hopes and dreams.
“I carry with me every day the dream of people like me from small towns and cities across the United States and how we all want a better life,” she explained. “I think we all do when we show up in positions that we didn’t think were possible for us. We carry with us the motivation of the people in those communities every day.”
Caesar has not worked directly with the President, but she has attended several significant White House events. One that stands out is a Black History Month event hosted by the President and Vice President.
“All the people I’ve ever dreamed or read about, for the most part, were in the room,” she said and named Rep. Jim Clyburn, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, among others. “All these incredible civil rights legends and here I am sitting in the same room with each of them which was a memorable moment for me.”
The military veteran also described attending the Medal of Honor ceremony for Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe, as another highlight.
“Having served in the military and seeing combat firsthand and knowing soldiers who were killed in action in Iraq like Sergeant Cashe, was a true honor,” said Caesar. “My husband, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Caesar, who is on active duty and stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, fought on the frontline in Iraq. So, to be in the presence of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who I met in Iraq while serving on the 3rd ID headquarters staff along with the Secretary of the Army, and General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, was an incredible moment for me.”
Caesar emphasized there’s nothing quite like working for a new administration and she views it as an extension of her military service because she continues to work on behalf of the American people. There is also no question that her time at Georgia Southern helped shape who she is today.
“There weren’t many African American students at Georgia Southern then, but we found ways to build connections with other people, faculty and other notable leaders in the community. I attribute all that I am today to Georgia Southern because that’s the place where I grew as a leader. Even now when people ask me, ‘Where did you go to college?’ I proudly say Georgia Southern University.” — Sandra Bennett
Note: Myra Caesar participated in this interview in her personal capacity.