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Auburn, Calif.- The Placer County Board of Supervisors presented team-achievement awards Tuesday to honor more than 150 county employees who assisted victims of the 49 Fire and a public-health team who mounted the largest vaccination campaign in county history last year.

Both groups received Exceptional Teamwork Awards through the county Employee Recognition Awards Program.

The board also presented ERAP awards to four individual employees:

  • Will Garner, a public works manager in the Public Works Department, received a Sustained Outstanding Leadership Award;
  • Terri Peterson, a senior victim advocate in the District Attorney’s Office, won a Public Service Excellence Award;
  • Sgt. Ty Conners of the Sheriff’s Department walked away with a Public Service Excellence Award; and
  • Chris Bass, a client services counselor II in the Health and Human Services Department, was honored with a Workforce Excellence Award.

The 49 Fire swept through North Auburn on Aug. 30, 2009, destroying 63 homes and three businesses.

Fourteen county departments teamed up to form the 49 Fire Recovery Team, which launched a massive effort to assist fire victims. The team’s efforts ranged from setting up and staffing a one-stop assistance center, helping owners get hazardous debris removed from their properties, expediting the permit process for owners seeking to rebuild homes and businesses, reassessing properties that were destroyed or damaged, protecting properties from outsiders and organizing community meetings.

“This award obviously has a great deal of meaning to me,” said 5th District Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, the board member who represents the fire area.

Noting that hundreds of employees helped in the recovery effort, she said, “The professional conduct of everyone involved was exemplary, displayed empathy with those affected and was a great illustration of the Placer County family coming together in the aftermath of a disaster.”

The vaccination campaign was carried out by the H1N1 Flu Response Team, a group comprised of employees from the Community Health Division of the Health and Human Services Department.

The team vaccinated more than 20,000 people, including 15,648 children. Team members held 61 vaccination clinics: 51 that were school-based, five for first responders and five for the general public.

“They worked late into the night and on weekends to ensure the public was protected against this new virus,” Supervisor F.C. “Rocky” Rockholm explained. “Because of their efforts, Placer County emerged statewide as one of the front runners in responding to the event.”

Award winners are nominated by co-workers. Employees receive special sustained-achievement awards when their outstanding work covers at least five years.

A focal point of the team’s efforts was the Local Assistance Center, a centralized place where fire victims were able to request and receive the services they needed to begin rebuilding their lives. Many county, state, federal and nonprofit agencies worked out of the center.

“New drivers licenses were issued, deeds to property were recreated, temporary living arrangements were settled, insurance claims were initiated and numerous other tasks related to rebuilding damaged and destroyed homes and lives were started,” Supervisor Montgomery said.

Departments that formed the recovery team include Administrative Services, the Assessor’s Office, Building, Community Development Resource Agency, Planning, Clerk-Recorder, County Counsel, the County Executive Office, Facility Services, Health and Human Services, Probation, Public Works, the Sheriff’s Office, and Board of Supervisors Office.

“Activities undertaken by county staff ensured an efficient recovery for those whose homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged,” Supervisor Montgomery said. “Throughout the recovery period, staff remained engaged with the affected community, kept them apprised of available assistance and received numerous expressions of thanks.”

The team responded to the first pandemic experienced by Placer County in more than 30 years, and mobilized the largest public health vaccination campaign in county history.

“The willingness of this team’s staff to accept new roles and put forth the best effort possible is commendable,” Supervisor Rockholm said, noting that the vaccination campaign required the creation of new relationships with many other local agencies.

The team also was credited with working diligently to address the ever-changing nature of the H1N1 pandemic. Guidance from federal and state officials changed frequently, requiring the team to respond quickly and take steps to keep the public and stakeholders well informed and protected.

Team members include Joe Arsenith, Mike Romero, Karen Klayman, Abby Becker, Eileen Johnson, Norma Ibarra, Katie Techau, Vicki Spannagel, Lynnette Goldstein, Bret Becker, Lynn Miller, Maude Lund, Renee “Sam” Hills and Victoria Kane. The team also included six employees from Public Health Nursing: Mary Jo Sweeney, Barbara MacDonald, Kim Sinel, Pam McEachron, Susan VanStenkist and Sue Seaters.

Garner, manager of the county’s public transit services, was recognized for his leadership in efforts to expand services, increase ridership, improve operations, strengthen coordination with other agencies and provide cost-effective services.

“Will leads by example and with an exemplary work ethic,” Supervisor Jim Holmes said. “Will’s business acumen, knowledge of transit and straightforward manner allow him to squeeze the most service out of a fixed budget, and he is recognized as a leader in budget management.”

Garner’s accomplishments include:

ยท Starting Placer Commuter Express, a popular weekday service that takes commuters to downtown Sacramento and back;
ยท Taking the lead in converting the county fleet from buses with diesel engines to models that use cleaner-burning compressed natural gas;
ยท Coming up with cost-effective ways to improve service to special-needs residents; and
ยท Working with other public agencies and private organizations to expand transit services.

A victim advocate in the District Attorney’s Office since 1997, Peterson was honored for the outstanding work she does assisting crime victims and their families.

“Terri possesses the innate ability to connect with crime victims,” board Chairman Kirk Uhler said. “She has sacrificed her personal time on countless occasions to be of service. Her compassion, patience and work ethic exceed all others.”

Chairman Uhler noted Peterson is particularly devoted to helping children who are crime victims and spent several years assisting victims of elder abuse. Her passion for helping children heal was described as “compassionate, tenacious and zealous.”

Peterson’s devotion to helping crime victims does not end when court cases conclude. She frequently maintains contact with victims and their families to address ongoing needs that continue long after final verdicts are rendered.

“She transforms the victim into a survivor and has done exceptional work on behalf of the children and families of Placer County,” Chairman Uhler said.

Sgt. Conners was nominated for an award by the Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center, an innovative county facility that provides child-friendly interview rooms for victims of child abuse.

In January 2009, the MDIC moved to a new location that was cheery and child-friendly, but had plain, neutral walls. Sgt. Conners, a gifted artist, was asked by his department to design and paint a mural on the center’s walls. The Sheriff’s Department donated 40 hours of his time for the project, and Sgt. Conners contributed 80 hours of his own time to create an eye-catching mural that shows children playing with Placer County landmarks such as the Auburn Historic Courthouse in the background.

The mural also features animals that are indigenous to Placer County and includes hidden objects such as a baseball, inchworm and paintbrush for children to find.

“Ty Conners’ genuine care for children, enthusiasm and dedication as a law enforcement officer and artist have improved a setting for the children during a time of despair and confusion,” Supervisor Robert Weygandt said.

Bass was honored for the positive attitude, exemplary work ethic, energy and empathetic manner that are his trademarks in his work at the county’s Children’s Emergency Shelter.

Chairman Uhler emphasized that Bass inspires those around him with his energy and positive, creative nature. “Most importantly, in your words and actions, you’re committed to providing a nurturing, supportive, stable living environment for children who require temporary protection and shelter,” Uhler told Bass.

The children respond favorably to his sincerity and youthful attitude, and he helps them however he can, whether it involves talking them through tough times or getting their minds off their problems with games and contests. The co-worker who nominated Bass described him as a “supervisor’s dream,” saying he always shows up with lots of energy, enthusiasm and willingness to work.

Chairman Uhler noted that Bass also designed and put into operation a database that is used by the shelter’s leadership to streamline and consolidate paperwork.

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