If you walk through the streets of downtown Washington, you’ll pass many of the unassuming buildings that house our federal workforce. Inside those walls, our federal public servants are diligently working to keep the U.S. safe and make a positive impact on Americans’ lives. Much of the federal workforce’s hard work goes unnoticed. However, the Partnership for Public Service has been taking notes on what the individuals in the federal workforce are doing.
For the past 16 years, the Partnership for Public Service has honored the best and the brightest federal public servants with the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals, or the SAMMIES. These awards work to foster a culture of recognition across a work force that is oftentimes not afforded positive praise and to inspire a new generation to serve our country.
The Partnership recently hosted a breakfast announcing the 2017 SAMMIES finalists – individuals and teams that come from across the federal government and were nominated by a colleague or friend who is familiar with their work and the impact they have made to creating a culture of innovation in the federal government.
“Our federal leaders have taken charge of creating the right culture in government and have helped tell the stories of our public servants who deserve our recognition. It is important we celebrate these successes to continue getting the best and brightest in government,” Max Stier, President and CEO at the Partnership for Public Service, said.
While these federal employees do see tremendous success, they are not always recognized like some of their private sector counterparts are. “These men and women are not going to be followed around by paparazzi or take private jets home. When they leave here today they are going to go back to their offices where they work every day for the American people,” said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp echoed Stier’s and Carson’s sentiments when she explained, “At the end of the day, the work that you do is for the great people of this country. The people who work in public service are the most important and critical piece of infrastructure in this country.”
The SAMMIES finalists are chosen from this invaluable federal workforce. They represent departments from across the government and highlight different specialties that are broken down into seven categories including career achievement, homeland security and law enforcement, management excellence, national security and international affairs, promising innovations, science and environment, and the federal employee of the year. A few examples of work from current SAMMIES finalists include:
- Joseph Seebode from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw a $2.1 billion project that deepened the navigation channels for the Port of New York and New Jersey and restoration and recovery efforts to the region after Hurricane Sandy and the 9/11 terror attacks.
- Nat Wood and the Identitytheft.gov Development Team at the Federal Trade Commission created a user-friendly online platform to help victims of identity theft to quickly report the crime and stop additional fraudulent activity and begin the recovery process.
- John Pilotte and Heather Grimsley from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services developed a new healthcare delivery system that compensates doctors and hospitals for the quality of medical outcomes rather than the quantity of patient services. The project improved patient care and saved a total of $1.3 billion.
- Jon R. Smibert worked with Albanian authorities to revise the country’s constitution and reform its criminal justice system to reduce corruption and organized crime in the country and put it on a path to gain membership to the European Union.
- Lisa Mazzuca from NASA developed a new generation of aircraft distress beacons that are more durable and likely to survive a plane crash, allowing aid rescuers to find crash victims faster.
- Rory A. Cooper from the Department of Veterans Affairs designed wheel chairs and assistive technology equipment to improve the mobility and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans and Americans.
With the recent administration shift, many career civil servants have been uncertain about their roles in government. However, after listening to a handful of cabinet secretaries and officials from the upper echelons of our federal government talk about the achievements they are seeing in their departments and across the federal workforce, it is clear that the career workforce is a critical part of government, now more than ever.
Secretary David Shulkin from the Department of Veterans Affairs put it best when he said, “I now recognize coming from outside of government how important what you do is and how our federal employees are some of the hardest working people I have ever met and are truly dedicated to fulfilling whatever task is put before you. The work you are doing inspires us all and makes us feel proud for being a part of the federal workforce.”
For more information on the individuals foster innovation in our government, check out all of this year’s Service to America Medal finalists and check back each week to see a profile of each finalist.