Honoring the Dedicated Public Servants of FSIS
By Felicia Thompson, OPACE
The first week in May each year is Public Service Recognition Week, an opportunity for the public to honor government employees at all levels for their service and dedication to make life better for us all. FSIS employees exemplify this service and dedication.
For nearly 160 years, Americans have depended upon public servants to keep our food safe. Today, approximately 8,700 FSIS employees continue to ensure that meat, poultry and egg products are safe and wholesome. They’re also serving outside of the Agency and applying their professional training, expertise and passions to other causes.
Since February, employees with clinical training have volunteered to deploy and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to people in Maryland, Nevada and Oklahoma. Others have deployed to the Southwest border to assist the Department of Health and Human Services, with processing the influx of unaccompanied minors coming into the country. These examples show the dedication of FSIS employees to helping our country wherever the need.
I am a career civil servant and a public affairs specialist with the Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education. Prior to FSIS, I served my country as a member of the military. I am proud to continue my public service as the person who communicates with FSIS employees on behalf of the Agency through the FSIS Feedback mailbox.
Since March 2020, I have responded to employees’ questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, leave, staffing, training, Agency resources (e.g., the Employee Assistance Program) and more recently, the Agency’s new website design. FSIS leadership has entrusted me to be that bridge between them and the team. It’s a responsibility that I do not take lightly – I ensure the flow of information from leadership to employees and back again is clear, concise and responsive. This role has allowed me to directly impact the lives of members of the FSIS team and their families.
Keep reading to hear about more of your FSIS public servant colleagues.
Suzanne Hensell, OPACE, contributed to this article.
Dr. Dannette DeWeese is a Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian (SPHV) at Establishment P-6137 in the Office of Field Operations’ (OFO) Alameda District. “I chose public service to make a bigger difference in the lives of more people and animals than I was making in private practice. By ensuring animals are healthy and treated humanely, I am bettering their lives which in turns ensures people have access to healthier and safer food to eat.”
Shonda Moore is the Veterans and Persons with Disabilities Outreach and Recruitment Program Manager in the Office of Management. “President John F. Kennedy urged the citizens of the United States to ‘ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ Since understanding the meaning of these words, my personal and professional goals have been centered on service and sacrifice for the good of all, giving highest regard to public service. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace result in better problem solving, increased productivity and greater protection of the public’s health.”
Elamin Ahmed Osman is Deputy Chief Information Officer in the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). “I’ve been serving people at FSIS for 15 years, and it has always been my passion. As part of OCIO leadership, I continued to improve the Information Technology (IT) posture and coordinate with the program areas and the business to implement systems that assist the Agency in the advancement of its mission. FSIS’ ability to fulfill its mission of keeping our nation’s food supply safe and strong is contingent upon its ability to build and utilize high performing computing systems. FSIS’ core functions are facilitated and made possible with IT systems and services.”
Anthony “Tony” Trenkle is a Freedom of Information Act assistant in the Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education. “I came to the Agency in 2008 as a summer intern with FSIS’ Workforce Recruitment Program. Every year, I was asked to come back, and I wanted to. My supervisor has recognized that I thrive even in little things – whether my communication with information requesters, putting together a report or other tasks – I contribute to the food safety mission.”
Jodi Hallstrom is the Agency’s Work/Life and Employee Assistance Program manager in the Office of Management. “I began working for FSIS in the Fall of 1994, human resources. Having just graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Vocal Performance, I came to the Agency solely as a short-term job while pursuing a master’s degree in opera performance. While I had no intention of pursuing a long-time federal career, I quickly noticed the clear distinction between the life of a performing artist and that of a civil servant. After some pretty serious soul searching, I realized the latter would provide me with opportunities to support and empower others, which is what I believe I was always meant to do.”
David Vasquez is a Supervisory Consumer Safety Inspector in OFO’s Dallas District. “I love the work I do. It is an honor to be a public servant. I know that as a public servant and an essential worker, we serve all Americans.”
Dr. Catherine Rockwell, a Commander in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), is a senior public health advisor in the Office of Public Health Science (OPHS) and the USDA-USPHS liaison. “I was looking for an opportunity to use my training as a veterinarian in a different way. A federal career in public health was very intriguing. I am gratified when I can apply my scientific knowledge and experiential learning to contribute to achieving the Agency’s strategic goals.”
Colette LaViolette Mayfield is a public health training coordinator in the Office of Employee Experience and Development. “There’s nothing more important than health – that is, overall wellness, mental health and physical health. I always wanted to be part of helping others achieve and maintain health in whatever way I could. I continue to work in public health because I feel I am accomplishing that goal through teaching the FSIS workforce food safety principles.”
Joel Bachert is a senior program auditor in the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA). “I absolutely love to perform outreach events to the public regarding food safety. I have answered food safety questions from various audiences including preschoolers, grade school ages, teens and adults at schools, career days and recruitment events, libraries and even the Pennsylvania Farm Show.”
Rochelle Kopicki is a consumer safety officer in OFO. “I discovered in college through my work with the campus parking department and my favorite course, Meat Science, that I loved learning about and enforcing regulations. I decided that an OFO enforcement, investigations and analysis officer internship might be a good fit for me to start with the Agency. My current job with the Recall Management and Technical Analysis Division makes me feel proud, fulfilled, challenged and truly grateful to be able to make a difference.”
Rosalyn Murphy-Jenkins is a staff director in the Office of Policy and Program Development. “I went to Penn State University with my original goals of studying biology and possibly medicine. My advisor steered me toward food science. I graduated in 1988 with 21 other students in the field. It is vitally important to lead my staff in a way that ensures meat, poultry and egg product labels are truthful and not misleading. Developing labeling regulations and policies, as well as, evaluating labeling for accuracy assures the public we serve that the food they are eating is safe and accurately labeled.”
Marvin Lykes is the Chief Information Security Officer in the Office of the Chief Information Officer. “I’ve been with FSIS for 16 years, and I have always had passion in the field of Information Technology (IT) and Cybersecurity while meeting the business requirements to deliver secure, scalable and reliable IT services. My primary responsibility in FSIS is to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of FSIS IT systems.”
Lisa Fort is a chemist in OPHS’ Midwestern Laboratory. She first learned about FSIS from two friends who worked at the Agency. “It seemed like something very interesting that could challenge me in new ways. I felt that FSIS was not just a job, but something that contributes to society. Our team is working toward the same common goal – putting out quality results so that we know if food is safe for human consumption.”
Annette T. Vanderhall is a management analyst in the Office of Planning, Analysis and Risk Management. “I didn’t choose public service – public service chose me. It is important to me that I help an organization that is committed to providing data analysis that involves applying statistical or logical techniques and practices to evaluate, describe and visualize data, as well as information to gain insight and improve decision-making.”
Joanne Swesey is a financial program specialist in the Office of Chief Financial Officer. “I’ve been with the Financial Service Center in Urbandale, Iowa, for 18 years, and I still love it. Our office is the first place employees reach out to if they have issues with webTA timesheets or payroll. My job is to ensure that all field inspectors, supervisors and all other personnel who make our food safe to eat have their timesheets processed so our employees are paid on time each pay period.”
Dr. Juan F. Rodriguez is director of the International Audit Staff in the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit. “I first learned of FSIS in college when I was pursuing my Bachelor of Science degree in Animal and Poultry Sciences. I feel very proud of the work I’ve done; working with colleagues from foreign countries who are in pursuit of creating food safety standards that are effectively implemented in their countries with the overall goal of making the food supply safer and protecting public health.”
Jennifer Conrad is a management analyst in the Office of International Coordination. “I always felt that, choosing a career in public service meant I would engage in a wide variety of genuinely challenging and fascinating work. I am always up for learning new things and, here I am, after 21 years with FSIS, still learning about food safety and, how it impacts the public. No matter why we each find our work in public service important, we have committed our lives to it – and that is worth honoring. I’m grateful my daily work contributes to the FSIS public health and food safety mission and international activities.”