Meet the Federal Government’s Hidden Heroes

Much of the government’s work is hidden inside the federal buildings in our nation’s capital. At one point or another, many of us have wondered what our government is actually doing in there and how it makes a real impact on our lives. At a high level, we know government workers keep the country running, but the day-to-day work that goes into keeping the government and the country functioning is often overlooked. However, there is a group that has been noticing what our federal workers are doing and have advocated for increased public recognition of their achievements.

For the past 15 years the Partnership for Public Service has been honoring exceptional government workers with the Samuel J. Hayman Service to America Medals (SAMMIES). This award honors individuals who worked on projects that much of the American public has never heard of but that are essential components to the effectiveness of the federal government.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, sat down with Christopher Dorobek on DorobekINSIDER program to explain how the Partnership for Public Service is recognizing the world of federal employees through the SAMMIES.

Fox explained, “we want to honor those folks who are doing work that too often gets overlooked amid the rhetoric and hyperbole of primary election season and other high profile issue areas.”

In order to find and highlight these overlooked workers, the initial nomination process is open for any federal worker. The process to winning the SAMMIES starts with a potential recipient being nominated by a colleague or friend who is familiar with their work and the impact they have made. From there, a selection committee of notable Washington private and non-profit sector leaders review the applications and work to narrow down the list to the finalist and eventual winners.

Finalists are chosen from across departments and highlight different specialties like homeland security and law enforcement, science and environment, management excellence, and citizen services. A few examples of work from current SAMMIES finalists include:

  • Richard May from the Department of Treasury who employed underutilized authorities to expose groups who launder money in the U.S. through real estate, fashion, and electronics transactions.
  • James McFadden from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who chased hurricanes for fifty years, working to protect peoples’ lives by tracking weather patterns.
  • Jenn Gustetic from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy who is working on finding better ways of using citizen knowledge and expertise to solve national problems through crowd sourcing challenges and prizes across government.
  • Jessica Hall Zomer from the Environmental Protection Agency who helped develop a major power plant regulation that works to eliminate one-third of toxic heavy metals in the nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams.

While the award honors individual accomplishments, Fox emphasized “so much of the good work that’s being done in the federal government is oftentimes a team of people.” He noted that individuals within the government are able to shine because certain departments have “created an environment where it is okay to take risks, and even to fail, as long as you’ve done your very best and learned from those failures.”

Without the individuals that make up and foster the team effort, the government would not be able to do the day-to-day work that keeps this country running. For more information on your government’s hidden heroes, check out all of this year’s Service to America Medal finalists and check back in September to see the 2016 winners.


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Mihail Sadeanu

These are real heroes who demonstrated outstanding capabilities, continuous involvement and practical commitment in their accomplished work for the whole nation.