The Department of Agriculture honors its unsung heroes. (Sheila Vemmer/staff)
Fifteen Agriculture Department employees have earned the department’s Unsung Hero awards, which go to employees who have shown extraordinary effort, shared time and expertise and provided noteworthy helpfulness to colleagues.
Another 23 USDA employees received honorable mentions, out of more than 200 nominations.
The 15 winners are:
Dianna McKinley, Law Enforcement Officer, Forest Service, Montana
McKinley encountered a disturbed young man armed with a pistol. She took possession of the gun and took the man to a safe place. Authorities later learned that the man had planned to commit suicide there.
Kendall Sloan, Forest Service, Ozark -Saint Francis National Forest, Big Piney Ranger District, Arkansas
Sloan accepts the award on behalf of a total of seven Big Piney Ranger District employees. The other six are Mike Walden; Mike Mulford; Mark Hellen; Terry Hope; Tammy Hocut; and Jim Dixon.
The team responded to a crash between a dump truck and a large tractor-trailer. The dump truck caught fire, and the driver trapped inside. The team attached a chain to the door and used another vehicle to force the door open, freeing the driver.
Jennifer Eberlien, Forest Service; Forest Supervisor, Mount Baker, Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
On March 22, 2014, the small town of Oso, Washingon, was hit by a huge mudslide. Eberlein and other Forest Service employees worked long hours to help the people who lost their homes in the disaster.
Tracie Kelley, Natural Resource and Conservation Service, Texas
Kelley, a trained emergency medical technician, aided a man she found slumped over the wheel of his car while she was on her way to work. The man had no pulse when she started CPR, but her efforts helped keep him alive until he could be taken to the hospital, where he was expected t make a full recovery.
Trina George, State Director, Rural Development, Jackson, Mississippi
George has provided exceptional leadership, as well as initiative, ideas, and energy toward furthering the Secretary’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity and Cultural Transformation initiatives. As a result of her efforts, and those of many others, rural Mississippi has received millions of dollars in investments toward business and economic development, and technical assistance, allowing for the creation and retention of thousands of jobs.
Cornell Webb, Risk Management Agency, Missouri
As manager of the case management systems for RMA, Webb has created several reports to improve operational efficiencies, contributing to savings of more than $1 billion.
Darya Chehrezad, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Guadalajara, Mexico
Chehrezad has been instrumental in developing and implementing security plans and operational protocols that help protect USDA employees in Mexico. Agricultural trade with Mexico is valued at over $1 billion, and his work has helped make that possible.
Patricia Bartling, Agricultural Research Service, Colorado
Bartling, a support scientist, educator and mentor, employee committee co-chair and safety consultant, uses cultural and language tools to address sustainable agriculture.
Lloyd Billey, Agricultural Research Service, Fargo, North Dakota
Billey has helped to train and supervise many other employees and students, and has served as chair, co-chair and key worker for his local Combined Federal Campaign.
Betty Jenkins, Departmental Management, Office of the Executive Secretariat, Washington, D.C.
A lead correspondence analyst for the Office of the Executive Secretariat, Jenkins reviews incoming correspondence to ensure that inquiries reach those at USDA who are best qualified to provide a response.
Cecil “Chuck” Salazar, Specialty Crops Inspection Division, Agricultural Marketing Service, Washington, D.C.
Salazar has overseen the purchase of more than $610 million worth of products through the commodity purchase program during fiscal year 2013 alone. The program seeks to ensure high-quality fruits and vegetables go into school lunches.
Harold Whitlow, Departmental Management, Office of Operations, Washington, D.C.
Whitlow works in the mail room’s mail preparation unit, stuffing, sorting and labeling envelopes for large mailing projects. He is being recognized for a general and everpresent willingness to go above and beyond his job requirements.
Allen Austin, Food and Nutrition Service, Virginia
Allen manages the FNS intranet environment, maintaining a 99.9 percent uptime. According to USDA, “His colleagues respectfully refer to him as the ‘power behind the platform.’”
Meryl Broussard, Deputy Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
In almost 30 years of USDA service, Broussard has played a key role in helping to create and further the national aquaculture programs. “His efforts have led to the establishment of long-term, sustainable aquaculture in the United States,” including five regional aquaculture centers, according to the department.
John Oiestad, Natural Resource and Conservation Service, Montana
Oiestad helps landowners identify their natural resource concerns and to accomplish enhanced conservation. His many successes include developing sustainable grazing systems for native rangeland, and helping Hutterite colonies move animal confinement operations away from local streams and rivers.