Administrator's Awards Ceremony: Transcript
Administrator’s Awards Ceremony: Excerpt of Remarks
March 17, 2015
Jamie L. Whitten Building Patio
U.S. Department of Agriculture Headquarters
ANGELA KELLY: Good Morning. Please rise for the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
ANGELA KELLY: You may be seated. My name is Angela Kelly and I am the Director of the Civil Rights Staff under the Office of the Administrator.
It is my pleasure to welcome all of you in attendance to the 2015 Administrator’s Awards Ceremony.
The Administrator’s Award for Excellence is the most prestigious symbol that is presented to an individual or group to recognize exceptional contributions made towards the strategic goals and mission of FSIS.
Today, we will be recognizing individuals and groups for their outstanding contributions made in Mission Results, Civil Rights and Diversity, Individual Performance, and Leadership.
We will also take a moment during the ceremony to acknowledge other individuals and groups who were nominated for the Administrator’s Awards for Excellence whose significant contributions warrant Honorable Mention.
At this time, it is my esteemed honor to introduce the Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety and the Acting Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Mr. Alfred V. Almanza.
AL ALMANZA: Thank you, Angie, for that welcome and introduction, and for all you do to promote our agency’s commitment to civil rights.
It’s really good to see everybody here, and I am certainly honored to present these awards today.
I know there’s been a lapse in these awards for a while, but I’m glad they are back. And I’m glad we have time so that we can recognize all the wonderful contributions you have been making.
In the absence of these awards, I have tried to acknowledge the hard work and dedication you have demonstrated to our agency. Still, I know it is not the same like a ceremony like this.
But I do hope that you know your work matters. The Administrator’s Awards are just one way of acknowledging some of the many FSIS employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in support of our mission, as well as the Department’s.
All of you, whether you get an award or not, contribute a wealth of ideas and knowledge that help us achieve a shared mission to protect public health.
The outstanding performances of this year’s award recipients mirror the Department’s broader goals that have been laid out in our strategic plan.
In 2014, we saw agency-wide collaborative efforts produce promising results.
Today’s awards demonstrate some of the outcomes of the hard work behind the ongoing projects at FSIS and remind us of what we can accomplish together when we hold ourselves accountable.
Together, all of the teams and individuals receiving these awards have led efforts that prevent foodborne illness, empower people, strengthen infrastructure, and use advanced science techniques to modernize our approach to food safety.
The work that FSIS employees perform every day— inspecting on the line, investigating consumer complaints, or teaching the public about food safety— is fundamental to the agency’s ability to accomplish its mission.
Before recognizing this year’s awardees, I would like to acknowledge Dr. Chuanfa Guo, an employee who passed away suddenly this year.
Dr. Guo had served the agency for over 11 years. He played an integral role in the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration, as well as numerous other important risk activities here in FSIS. As a leading scientist with IFSAC, Dr. Guo made substantial contributions to the methods for attributing foodborne illnesses to different foods, including work recently presented at the IFSAC’s public meeting. Dr. Guo’s contributions to food attribution even pre-date IFSAC, with a seminal publication adapting an attribution model to the U.S. situation.
I would like to take a moment to also recognize Dr. Guo’s contributions beyond his attribution work. He was FSIS’s expert on the risks from BSE. His work in that area lead to a seminal rule removing certain risk materials from the food supply, protecting both the public’s health and US trade, and he continued to assess the potential risks to the U.S. population as new data emerged. He also moved the agency forward in its use of consumption data for risk estimation, and played a key role in modeling the risks from different lethality treatments for ready-to-eat foods.
In addition to his significant scientific contributions to the agency and to the field of public health, we will all miss his calm demeanor and ready smile. Chuanfa was an inspiration to us all and his hard work and positive attitude reflects the nature of the rest of these awards today. It is my great honor to invite his son up to the stage at this time to receive his award.
For the Excellence in Mission Results, I’d like to first recognize the New Poultry Inspection System Team who created, finalized, and publicized the Poultry Slaughter Modernization Rule.
You’ve heard me say this before, but this Poultry Slaughter Modernization Rule is one of the biggest steps the agency has taken to improve food inspection and food safety in a generation.
We estimate that implementation of this rule will prevent more than 5,000 illnesses a year.
The Poultry Slaughter Modernization Rule demonstrates our ability to employ science and emerging trends to attack Salmonella and increase overall food safety. The NPIS team who worked on this rule stayed strong and devoted to their important work, despite significant hurdles.
In the end, we know that poultry modernization reduces the risk of foodborne illness by decreasing Salmonella rates and improving food safety for all poultry consumers.
I also have to say that the people who helped with this rule were extremely patient.
I’m not going to read from my remarks because I know that several of the folks who are going to get this award were at times disappointed, at times frustrated, at times extremely tolerant of the push—but, at the end, we came out on top. And I would say that it didn’t come out exactly like we thought- but this is how government is supposed to work.
When you think about it, the Secretary made a point saying, if all of government worked this way, we would accomplish many more things.
Because there were two opposite interests in this room, we didn’t get everything we wanted, but we got the rule, which is significant in improving how we do inspection and it changes, in my opinion, how inspection is looked at in the future.
ANGELA KELLY: For our first category, Excellence in Mission Results, we are pleased to recognize the members of the New Poultry Inspection System Team for their development of a new poultry inspection system that will reduce the risk of foodborne illness. As they stand, we invite Team Leader, Mary E. Porretta, to accept, on their behalf, the Administrator’s Award for Excellence in Mission Results.
HILTON FELTON: Members please rise: Christopher Alvares, Isabel Arrington, Jennifer Beasley McKean, Quita Bowman-Blackwell, Sandra Burrell, Michelle Catlin, Catherine Cochran, Robert Cooke, William Disney, Todd Furey, Tia Gayle, Rebecca Hairgrove, Laurie Hopkins, Lynvel Johnson, David LaBarre, April Regonlinski, Thomas Reimler, Duane Robinson, La Ria Robinson, Gary Roseman, Yudhbir Sharma, and Daniel Smigal.
AL ALMANZA: Next, I want to highlight the IFSAC team. IFSAC has demonstrated great success since CDC, FDA and FSIS first teamed up in 2011. The recent meeting in February ended in a report that discussed a new harmonized method for estimating the percentage of foodborne illnesses.
By working together with other agencies, we are able to improve the quality of our own work. And it continues to get work verifying as to how the government is supposed to work. That is what the public pays for—they pay for us to work together and to accomplish things in food safety.
ANGELA KELLY: Next, we are pleased to recognize the members of the FSIS Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration for their efforts to develop harmonized attribution data, methods, and estimates; allowing FSIS to measure progress in achieving mission results to reduce foodborne illness. As they stand, we invite Team Leaders, Christopher P. Alvares and Kristin G. Holt, to accept, on their behalf, the Administrator’s Award for Excellence in Mission Results.
HILTON FELTON: Members are: Christopher Alvares, Kristin Holt, Eric Ebel, Neal Golden, Chuanfa Guo, Joanna Zablotsky Kufel, and Michael Williams.
AL ALMANZA: Last but not least, I want to thank the members of the Egg Products into PHIS team. Because of their efforts, the electronic management and documentation of egg products inspection is now available through the Public Health Information System.
PHIS is such an important decision-making tool that enables FSIS to protect public health more efficiently, effectively and rapidly than under previous data systems. This system supports prevention efforts by anticipating problems before they can result in adulterated product.
The recent integration of Egg Products into PHIS further demonstrates criteria for the Excellence in Mission Results award by supporting a data-driven, systematic approach to food safety.
ANGELA KELLY: Next, we are pleased to recognize the members of the EGG Products into PHIS Team for their implementation of, for the first time ever, the electronic management and documentation of egg products inspection through the Public Health Information System. As they stand, we invite Team Leaders, Kim R. Green, Scott E. Seebohm and Dawn G. Sprouls, to accept, on their behalf, the Administrator’s Award for Excellence in Mission Results.
HILTON FELTON: Members please rise: Kim Green, Scott Seebohm, Dawn Sprouls, Christopher Alvares, Robert Cooke, Dennis Depperschmidt, Jose Gabiola, Gail Graves, Julianne Henderson, Daniel Jozefowski, Katherine Kjome, Susan Knower, Susan Knox, Victoria Levine, Mildred Rivera-Betancourt, Gurinder Saini, Michael Sheldon, Alexandra Tarrant, Jeffery Tarrant, Daniel Willis, and Valerie Yarbrough.
AL ALMANZA: Thank you to all of the recipients for their hard work to achieve Excellence in Mission Results.
Today, I also want to honor those who demonstrate Excellence in Civil Rights and Diversity.
I firmly believe that Equal Employment Opportunity and Goal 7 of our Agency’s strategic plan must be fully integrated into our larger mission to protect the public from foodborne illness. Goal 7 is to “empower employees with training, resources, and tools to enable success in protecting public health.”
This year, we recognize the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit’s Diversity and Inclusion Group for its consistent demonstration of the highest level of professionalism and its dedication to FSIS, its employees, and partners, to promote and sustain diversity and inclusion initiatives that integrate EEO into the Agency’s mission.
Organizations with a diverse and inclusive workforce have a competitive advantage and are more likely to succeed. The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce include increased innovation, productivity, customer service, teamwork, and morale.
We are public servants who work for the People’s Department, and so we should and must represent the public that we serve. Reflecting the diversity of America is how we achieve our mission.
Thank you to the OIEA Diversity and Inclusion group for their dedication to equal opportunity in everything they do.
ANGELA KELLY: For our second category, Excellence in Civil Rights and Diversity, we are pleased to recognize the members of the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit’s Diversity and Inclusion Group for their promotion and sustained diversity and inclusion initiatives that integrate Equal Employment Opportunity into the Agency's mission of protecting public health. As they stand, we invite Team Leader, Beth R. Leopold, to accept, on their behalf, the Administrator’s Award for Excellence in Civil Rights and Diversity.
HILTON FELTON: Members please rise: Beth Leopold, Judy Akinola, Shannon Ashby, Sara Baucher, Bonnie Cobb, Carolyn Grant, Glenda Kelley, Maxine Lebron, Eleanor Lewis, and Robert Purdy.
AL ALMANZA: Next, we have the Employee of the Year award. This goes to Gary Noyes. Gary is an economist at OPPD and has led and contributed to the development of several FSIS high-priority rulemaking projects.
His signature work can be attributed to the regulatory impact analyses for the modernization of poultry slaughter inspection rule, Performance Standards, and Records to be Kept by Official Meat Establishments and Retail Stores that Grind or Chop Raw Beef Products.
He has also gone above and beyond his assigned tasks as an economist by contributing to OPPD and many other offices within FSIS and the Department. Thank you, Gary, for being an asset to our organization, for empowering other employees with training, and for developing mechanisms to protect public health efficiently and effectively.
ANGELA KELLY: For our third category, Employee of the Year, we are pleased to recognize, for exemplifying the highest levels of excellence and commitment through his performance and support of the Agency’s mission, Gary A. Noyes, Economist in the Office of Policy and Program Development.
AL ALMANZA: We also have the Leader of the Year award, which goes to Patty Bennett, the Deputy Director of OPHS’s Science Staff. Patty was reassigned to OPHS’ Science Staff as the Deputy Director in May 2013.
She quickly demonstrated her leadership talents through creative and innovative efforts to make developmental opportunities and details outside of OPHS a priority for her staff.
She has hosted several detailees from outside OPHS and has organized developmental opportunities for a number of her staff.
Patty not only leads her employees in the operational management of Science Staff assignments; she has invested herself into their professional development and growth.
She has truly been a transformative, caring, and visionary leader for OPHS and her staff has become a more productive, committed, and engaged team since their time under Patty’s leadership.
Thank you, Patty, for your hard work and leadership.
ANGELA KELLY: For our final category, Leader of the Year, we are pleased to recognize, for her transformative leadership in cultivating the newly-formed Science Staff as “one team for one purpose,” Patricia A. Bennett, Deputy Director for the Office of Public Health Science.
ANGELA KELLY: Would you please extend another round of applause for the recipients of the 2015 Administrator’s Awards for Excellence.
ANGELA KELLY: Thank you.
AL ALMANZA: Now, I want to recognize the Honorable Mentions for Excellence in Mission Results. These go to the PHIS Reports Development Team, the Goal 8 Work Group, the State Lab Methods “At Least Equal To” Review Methodology and Criteria Team, the Accounts Payable Management Branch (APMB), the Non-O157 STEC Test Kit Validation Review Team, the International Working Group, and the OIEA, Enforcement and Litigation Division.
ANGELA KELLY: For advancing the data driven objectives of FSIS by developing and deploying reports to the inspection workforce and to State and Industry users of FSIS' Public Health Information System, will the members of the PHIS Reports Development Team please rise as we applaud you.
ANGELA KELLY: For their dedication and contribution to the development and implementation of the Goal 8 process, resulting in all metrics rated green during Fiscal Year 2014, will the members of the Goal 8 Work Group please rise as we applaud you.
HILTON FELTON: Christopher Alvarez, Daniel Beseris, David Blank, Linda Britt, Michell Catlin, Jose Esteban, Gail Graves, Kimberly Hull, Michael Jones, Dorothy LaRusso, Cara LeConte, Beth Leopold, Joan Lindenberger, Sandra Minor, Christopher Morgan, Frank Niagro, Kristal Southern, Janet Stevens, Teresa Yenovkian, and Joanna Zablotsky-Kufel.
ANGELA KELLY: For outstanding work developing and implementing "at least equal to" criteria and review methodology ensuring the improved protection of public health, will the members of the State Labs Method Team please rise as we applaud you.
HILTON FELTON: Louis Bluhm, Stephanie Buchanan, Stephanie Defibaugh-Chavez, Priyamvada Kadam, Kristopher Kenne, Evelyne Mbandi, Keith Payne, Cathy Pentz, Charles Pixley, Donna Potts-Gill, Dexter Reavis, and Christyn Stumps.
ANGELA KELLY: For their exceptional service in properly tracking and processing all FSIS Time and Attendance and Payroll actions immediately upon resuming normal operations after the Government shutdown, will the members of the Accounts Payable Management Branch, Payroll Team please rise as we applaud you.
HILTON FELTON: Shauna Armstrong, Barbara Bailiff, Shannon Barber, Teresa Becker, Carol Drake, Patricia Forkner, Dee Finnell, Bruce Gowen, Barbara McAlpin, Rachel Merrell, Diane Miksell, Celestyna Ochylski, Tammy Parker, Penelope Peters, Lori Requist, Tamara Russell, Gloria Solomon, Stephanie Stewart, Joanne Swesey, and Annette Walker.
ANGELA KELLY: For outstanding work in collaborating with test kit manufacturers to ensure the availability of test methods for detection of non-O157 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli to establishments for testing beef products to better protect public health, will the members of the Non-O157 STEC Test Kit Validation Review Team please rise as we applaud you.
HILTON FELTON: Philip Bronstein, Catherine Rockwell, Uday Dessai, Evelyne Mbandi, Cathy Pentz, Lorenza Rozier, William Shaw.
ANGELA KELLY: For development and implementation of a transparent system to schedule performance-based international equivalence audits, will the members of the International Issues Working Group please rise as we applaud you.
HILTON FELTON: Faiz Agarib, Donald Anderson, Linda Chittum, Rachel Johnson-DeRycke, Priyamvada Kadam, Andreas Keller, Atiya Khan, Alexander Lauro, Shannon McMurtrey Belson, Paul Melita, Jeremy Reed, Meryl Silverman, Julie Smith, Jordan Stoltz, Shaukat Syed, Regina Tan, Robert Tuverson, and Kenneth Witek.
ANGELA KELLY: For demonstrating outstanding leadership and expertise to obtain significant and numerous mission results that directly contributed to protecting public health, will the members of the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit, Enforcement and Litigation Division please rise as we applaud you.
HILTON FELTON: Judy Akinola, Jose Calvo, Ryan Cast, Bonnie Cobb, Mark Crowe, William Gillingwater, Carolyn Grant, Troy Hambright, Tina Henarie, Vella Holmes, Glenda Kelley, Dwight Lacy, Maxine Lebron, Beth Leopold, Eleanor Lewis, Clifford Lockett, Davina Minnix, Valerie Neris, Robert Purdy, Scott Safian, Joseph Schein, Alan Shadduck, and Dierdre Shelton.
AL ALMANZA: Next, the Honorable Mention for Excellence in Civil Rights and Diversity goes to the “I am FSIS” team for creating an innovative approach to highlighting diverse backgrounds and interests of FSIS employees.
I’ve heard lots of great things about this program from people at all levels of the agency, so thank you for everything you do to promote diversity.
ANGELA KELLY: For creating an innovative approach to highlighting the significant diversity of backgrounds and interests of FSIS employees, will the members of the “I am FSIS” Team please rise as we applaud you.
HILTON FELTON: Patricia Bennett and Sherri Johnson
AL ALMANZA: This year’s Honorable Mention for Employee of the Year goes to Olga N. Morales, a Senior Compliance Specialist in OIEA.
Olga, you truly exemplify the highest attributes of public service and commitment to protecting public health and the principles at the heart of the Employee of the Year award. Thank you.
ANGELA KELLY: For consistently modeling the highest level of professionalism, continually displaying extraordinary dedication to the agency, its employees, and partners, and constantly delivering results that protected the public from foodborne illness and maximized industry compliance, will Olga N. Morales, Senior Compliance Specialist in the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit, please rise as we applaud you (OIEA).
ANGELA KELLY: For constantly demonstrating outstanding people-management and leadership skills in guiding the Hearings and Appeals Branch to extraordinary professionalism, customer service, and results that helped empower agency managers and employees to better protect public health, will Valerie J. Neris, Branch Chief of the Hearings and Appeals Branch in the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit, please rise as we applaud you.
AL ALMANZA: Wow, that was a long list. But that speaks to the talented employees I work with every day. I thank you and am proud of all your efforts.
ANGELA KELLY: Congratulations, again, to all of the award recipients and honorable mention of the 2015 Administrator’s Awards for Excellence. Now, with closing remarks, Mr. Alfred V. Almanza.
AL ALMANZA: This past year was marked by creative and collaborative agency activity which fully supported our public health objectives.
From the implementation of cross-agency working group findings to the introduction of new and innovative food safety policies, FSIS remained steadfast in its advancement towards being an increasingly modern food safety agency.
We are doing so, so much right now. It really is amazing when you think about how productive we have been in such a short time, and the progress we have made for food safety.
I really have you all to thank for that. You work hard, day in and day out, often doing thankless work that consumers don’t even know is taking place.
But when they sit down at the dinner table, they have safe food to eat. We have safe food to eat.
Every day, you show up to work with a positive attitude and a commitment to our mission to reduce foodborne illness. That’s not easy to do, no matter where you work, but I am extremely grateful for it.
Your work is truly inspiring and I encourage you all to keep pursuing opportunities that allow you to grow in your careers.
I have to say that, regardless of if you got an honorable mention or whether you got an award, or you were nominated and didn’t get an award, I’ll tell you one thing, I get a lot of credit for the things that you all do… and I don’t get around to say thank you for what you do—I know I don’t see many of you very often.
I get the credit for it, and yet, whenever you read that it’s Al that’s getting something—it’s you all getting it—I tell the Secretary all the time—it’s not me. And really, my executives—it’s you all that are doing all the work that generates all this interest in what we are doing.
Because, when the President talks about food safety in his speeches, when the Secretary talks about food safety, it’s not Al that’s doing it, it’s not our executives doing it. Sure, we’re leading, and we’re doing what we can to lead, but you all are the ones who should get the credit—and I’ll tell you, I’ve never been as proud to be in the position I’m in—because of what you all do.
And so I want you all to give yourselves a round of applause because you all are the greatest food safety agency in the world—nobody else comes close.