County Administrator's First Black Female Professional Engineer Embraced the Journey
Dana Mackey enjoyed playing with dolls as a child. But she was also intrigued with assembling and snapping together toy cars and airplanes.
That curiosity resulted in Mackey becoming the first Black female professional engineer in Hillsborough County Government under the County Administrator and one of a few in America. Mackey has been a Hillsborough County Government team member for more than 25 years. In 2002, Hillsborough County recognized Mackey for her dedication and service, and as the County's first Black female professional engineer hired under the County Administrator.
Paving the way
"I feel like I've paved the way for many," Mackey said. "There was a perspective of unknowing when I would walk in a room. I looked uncommon and different. But 30-plus years later, it's all changed. I've been there when there was none."
According to National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, of the more than 1.7 million professionals working in engineering occupations in the United States, only about 16,000 are Black women, which amounts to less than 1 percent of the engineering workforce.
Mackey, 57, grew up in Hillsborough County. She attended Tampa's Robinson High School and graduated in 1982. She then graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1987. Afterward, Mackey became the first African American female professional engineer for Districts 1 and 7 of the Florida Department of Transportation. She was also one of the first African American females to complete FDOT's Professional Engineer Trainee Program in Florida. After the four-year program, Mackey continued working with the FDOT as a traffic engineer. Years later, in 1996, she joined the County as an engineer in the Public Works department, and has worked in the Traffic Engineering, Stormwater, and Construction Services sections. She is currently the manager of Projects Management with the Capital Programs department.
"I love construction," Mackey said. "I like the fact that I can drive around the county and see things that I participated in. From the start to the final project completion and closeout, it becomes an actuality. It's the gratification of seeing your work and your contribution to the county. I was born and raised in the county, and now I get the chance to give back and use the gift that God has given me as an educational tool."
A woman of many talents
Mackey is the mother of four and has been married for 29 years. She also has a doctorate in ministry, loves music, and plays six different instruments. She has produced a few gospel albums and was nominated for a Stellar Gospel Music Award.
"This year, I bought myself my own Valentine's Day present," Mackey said, laughing. "I bought a new keyboard. When it arrived, I had the biggest smile."
Mackey is pleased with the growth of women and African Americans in the field of engineering. At USF, she was often the only female in her classes.
"The perception has changed a lot, and I'm proud now to see our profession when it comes to gender," Mackey said. "Going through the FDOT's Professional Engineering Training Program, all my friends and buddies were males. I believe that you can be what you want to be. Just have respect, dedication and character, along with embracing different diversities. We are all just one big team working together for one big common goal. I love team building."