ARCHIVE: In Their Own Words: The 2021 Administrator’s Awards for Excellence Winners Speak Out
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By Michael Dendinger, OEED
Seventy-one FSIS employees were nominated by their coworkers and received an Administrator’s Award for Excellence this year, spanning nine award categories, each greatly benefitting the Agency in their own unique way. You can visit the AAFE FSIS intranet page to view a recording of the 2021 Award Ceremony, see all of this year’s recipients, read more about the award categories, and learn how to nominate your colleagues for a 2022 Administrator’s Award. This past year has presented many challenges, but in doing so, has also provided the opportunity to demonstrate how we can overcome these obstacles and be stronger for it. The following is a summary of your coworkers’ accomplishments and a selection of statements from this year’s winners. You will see how they overcame these challenges, worked together to tackle unpredictable experiences, and are now stronger as individuals and teams, making FSIS stronger.
Michael Piotrowski, CSI with the Philadelphia District, received an award for Employee of the Year – In Plant. Michael was instrumental in observing, documenting, and reporting insanitary conditions at an establishment, resulting in a Notice of Suspension (NoS) for rodent infestation. Due to his diligence, he correctly suspected the establishment of operating during the NoS, thus leading to an OIEA investigation, recall of product across numerous states, referral to Enforcement and Litigation Division (ELD), and potential criminal and civil penalties against the establishment. “I try to approach every day by the motto of the retired Philadelphia DM, Mr. Jan Behney: ‘Know your job and do your job,’” Michael quoted, “I firmly believe in that approach and I try my best to perform my job in that manner each and every day. I am truly honored to have received this award.”
Dr. Robert Reeder, District Manager of the Denver DO, was a member of the Food Safety Administrative Hearing Team, which received an award for Excellence in Food Safety. The team effectively defended FSIS policy and regulations to an Administrative Law Judge, demonstrating that an applicant establishment had not complied with Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations. In doing so, they proved that the establishment’s food safety system lacked evidence that it would produce safe and wholesome food products and did not qualify for Federal inspection services under the FMIA. Not only was this the first case argued on this topic in over 20 years, but it was also done entirely by written materials, declarations, and evidence, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “What receiving this award meant to me is that we actually saw the ‘process’ between our offices work to the benefit the public,” Dr. Reeder said, “prevailing in the hearing decision provided a sense of accomplishment and confidence that we can keep [noncompliant establishments] out of the marketplace when justified.”
Jose Gabiola, Staff Officer with the Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD), was a member of the Egg Products Inspection Regulations Workgroup, which received an award for Excellence in Modernization and Innovation. The workgroup played a key role in developing and publishing the Egg Products Inspection Regulations final rule. This final rule amended egg products regulatory provisions, which had not been updated in over 50 years, to be consistent with that of meat and poultry product regulations; requiring egg products plants to develop and implement SSOP, HACCP, and Sanitation Performance Standards plans. “We appreciate the recognition and acknowledgement from winning [this] award. It is the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and a ‘never-give-up’ mentality,” Jose stated, “this has catapulted and elevated our team, ensuring we continue our increased efforts in data analytics and improving policy effectiveness.”
Maribel Borrero Glass, IT Project Manager with the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), was a team leader for the e-Device Project Team, which received an award for Excellence in Operational Improvement. The Team successfully worked together to deploy e-devices to approximately 3,000 line inspectors in the field, who previously did not have computer access. By doing so, these employees now have easy access to online Time & Attendance, email, travel authorizations, trainings, policies and procedures, and a host of other relevant FSIS resources. “‘Excellence is never an accident. It is the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution, and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities,’” Maribel quoted, “[this recognition] reinforces our commitment and engagement to our projects and the Agency’s mission, as well as reveals the admirable dedication of our team regardless of the circumstances.”
Micheall Myrie, Visual Information Specialist, was a team leader for the Office of Employee Experience and Development (OEED) Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee (EEOAC), which received an award for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion. The committee made a significant impact in OEED by revitalizing the EEOAC and demonstrating FSIS’ pride, loyalty, commitment, diversity, inclusion, and work ethic. Some of their projects included distribution of a quarterly EEOAC Newsletter, sharing ways to give back to the community and to stay safe during the pandemic, sharing holiday recipes for colleagues to enjoy, holding team-building events, and promoting monthly special emphasis celebrations. “The efforts of our committee were always rewarded with positive feedback, which was the food for our morale,” Micheall stated, “we were constantly motivated to create good content for our newsletter and develop innovative ways to engage our audience. The experience has been rewarding and taught me a lot about social issues, other cultures, and myself.”
Dr. Jeanetta Tankson, Ph.D., Microbiology Staff Officer with the Office of Public Health Science (OPHS), received an award for Employee of the Year – Non-In Plant. Dr. Tankson helped maintain critical laboratory operations across all three labs during the COVID-19 pandemic by organizing and implementing a Surge Cadre of FSIS and ARS scientists to sustain laboratory operations during staffing shortages. In addition to creating this workforce, she also adjusted her schedule to be able to continue her routine, high-level, Staff Officer duties. “After fourteen years of dedicated service as a Laboratory Quality Assurance, Response, and Coordination Staff (LQARCS) Microbiology Staff Officer, words cannot express my gratitude for being selected for the Administrator’s Award for Excellence as well as the Under Secretary’s Award,” Dr. Tankson said, “such prestigious recognition has given me even greater fortitude to be a more industrious employee, stronger team player, and a visionary.”