Scottsdale honors its employees

Quickly creating a mobile workforce. Providing “Simply Better Service for a World Class Community” in a new digital format. Ensuring our city buildings and facilities are updated to meet health and safety protocols. 

Not surprisingly, many city of Scottsdale employees are being recognized this year for actions  taken related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

But those are just some of the steps taken in 2020 by Scottsdale employees honored for outstanding performance and commitment to the Scottsdale community.  

In all, 53 employees and a group of volunteers were honored at the city’s virtual Employee Awards Program. The winners were among 561 employees nominated in several categories.  

Here’s a summary of those honored and their contributions: 

Herbert R. Drinkwater Award -- Mayor W. J. “Jim” Lane selects this recipient: Luis Santaella, deputy city attorney.

Herb Drinkwater combined an infectious smile and easy manner with foresight and a dedication to carrying out big ideas for the benefit of the community. The Drinkwater Award recognizes an employee who also makes a big impact in service to the community.  

Luis' strong community-oriented nature always has him thinking about how he can better assist those in need. His career with the city began in 2001 in the City Prosecutor’s Office. Luis now serves as deputy city attorney working as the legal advisor for Police, Fire, Code Enforcement and Government Relations. He also has extensive experience dealing with victims’ issues and supervises the city’s victim advocates. Luis has recently taken on additional duties serving as city prosecutor. On top of that, he has been instrumental with the city’s emergency management response related to the pandemic and the civil unrest that erupted in the city and across the nation earlier this year.   

Luis and his wife are active with Scottsdale Sister Cities and focus on Scottsdale’s oldest Sister City, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. He finds time to serve on the board of the Byzantine Catholic Church, and he also mentors law students serving during their internships. Suffice it to say that much like the late Mayor Herb Drinkwater, Luis has dedicated himself not only to community and public service, but also to the mission of encouraging and empowering others. 

Bill Donaldson Award -- City Manager Jim Thompson selects this recipient: Brad Hartig, chief information officer.

This award is named for the city manager who served from 1965-1971. In less than a decade, Donaldson was credited with transforming the culture of city government and fostering a spirit of innovation that still holds true today.  

Brad joined the city of Scottsdale in May 1991 and has held several IT positions before he was promoted in 2004 to executive director and chief information officer. He has led the city through continuous business transformations by integrating the effective use of technology. Brad was influential in forming the Regional Wireless Cooperative that provides radio communications to 19 public safety agencies in the Valley. He has also been actively engaged in a private organization of municipal and county CIOs from around the nation called Metropolitan Information Exchange. Brad loves public service and his enthusiasm for it is evident. 

Focus on Quality Customer Service: Melanie Gibson, Public Works project coordinator 

Melanie has an unwavering respect and dedication to her customers and carries out her responsibilities with a positive attitude. Her respect of others leads to productive work teams, successful projects and satisfied customers. Melanie is responsible for coordination with demanding project managers, engineers and departmental representatives. She gets the work done … and it’s a lot! So much in fact that her manager often feels guilty continually asking her to do “just one more thing.” Mel never fails to deliver and always produces quality work. It’s a pleasure to work with her; she makes us understand and appreciate what superior quality customer service can do for an organization. 

The People’s Choice Award -- Peers select this recipient: COVID-19 IT Response Team 

Due to the pandemic, the city was forced to close public facilities for the safety of its citizens and employees. This team quickly moved into action to transition employees to a mobile workforce. At that time, fewer  than 1,000 of its 2600+ employees were set up with technology allowing them to work remotely. This included the city’s Call Center and 911 services employees. The team prepared tablets and laptops for take-home; set up virtual private network connectivity, accelerated the personal computer replacement program and migrated about 100 people to new computers immediately.  

Staff worked nights and weekends to accomplish this amazing feat, which was accomplished in a matter of just a few weeks. It impacted hundreds of city staff members and customers, and will change the way employees connect and perform their city jobs for years to come. 

Team: Brian Bartron, Mark Bennett, Todd DeFilippis, Luis Garcia, Mike Larsen, Damir Omerovic, Felix Ortiz, Andrew Pirtle, Stormy Renee, Matthew Schaffter, Tracy Spackman, Don Thelander, Timothy Thrush, Michael Tinguely, Abraham Villasano, Leopoldo Ybarra III 

Thanks to You -- The Scottsdale City Council selects the recipient: Denise Plug, risk management assistant.

The “Thanks to You” award recognizes employees for providing such excellent service that residents contacted the city to say thank you. 

A resident emailed the City Council and city manager with concerns of a destroyed monument and the debris that was left behind. Along came Risk Management Assistant Denise Plug to the rescue! She communicated with the resident several times and got right to work by identifying the destroyed monument, planning for its rebuild and finding the accident report related to the destruction. She contacted the driver’s insurance company and it agreed to pay for the monument’s replacement. The resident was so pleased that he and his neighbors immediately recommended this employee for a commendation.  

Listen, Communicate, Take Action: COVID Communications, Video, Graphics & Web Coordination 

The COVID-19 global pandemic changed our world. For those working in web, graphic design, video and communication, it altered every aspect of the job and placed focus on communicating information quickly – internally and externally – about the virus and its impact to Scottsdale and the way we do business. This team had to listen to constantly changing information, the needs of our employees, citizens, businesses and the public and take action to communicate critical information in a timely and effective manner. This is a true example of listening, communicating and taking action! 

Team: Alan Christensen, Kelly Corsette, Becca Cox, Lee Curry, Brian Gregory, Brian Hancock, Stephanie Hirata, Jan Horne, Jeff Jordan, Alfred Kane Jr., Jessica Lema, Megan Lynn, Brad Morse, Craig Noll, Ann Porter, Amy Tinder, Veronica Sahwany, Holly Walter, Amanda Willis  

Be Accountable and Act with Integrity: Water Engineering Team 

While many city services slowed due to the pandemic, others accelerated. Other Valley cities and utilities relaxed and shelved capital projects, but Scottsdale Water actually increased the pace of new projects. It considered the COVID-19 situation an opportunity to complete invasive infrastructure projects during a time when traffic was reduced, and construction would have the least impact on businesses. The completed projects represent a coordinated effort that resulted in an investment in our community, kept our valued contractor partners busy and provided private sector jobs. 

Team: Scott Anderson, Julia Campo, Levi Dillon, Gary Lyons, Rezaur Rahman, Richard Sacks, Binga Talabi, Maurice Tatlow 

Show Caring and Compassion for Others: Vincent Durazo, Solid Waste equipment operator III 

We’re all familiar with the impact COVID-19 has had on us as adults. Imagine what young children are experiencing. Vincent found a way to bring joy to a child during this isolated, lonely time. Kids love trucks, big ones! No different for a young resident who was devastated when he missed a weekly recycling pickup. The boy’s mom talked to driver Vincent and came up with a plan. Vincent would text the mom when he was five minutes away to ensure her son would never miss a sighting. Vincent often shows up with little trinkets he pays for out of his own pocket. The mom, a freelance writer, was so impressed she submitted an article to the Wall Street Journal that was published in October.  

Collaborate as a Team: Senior Services Team 

As with other city buildings, the Senior Centers closed to the public due to the pandemic. This created a dilemma for the many seniors who participate in the city’s food programs such as Brown Bag and daily communal lunches. Identified as a high risk population, the importance  for seniors to have access to nutritious food increased with the need for them to stay healthy. Staff began quickly working with partnering agencies to re-design daily lunches as “to-go” meals that could be picked up curbside and/or delivered. The team continues to spend hours outside gloved and masked in record breaking heat and bone-chilling temperatures delivering food, assisting with the weekly Brown Bag Program and passing out to-go lunches. Even with restraints and roadblocks, this team showed it cannot be stopped when it comes to making sure seniors are well taken care of! 

Team: Ann Deasy, Tracey Durso, Bennie Guerra, Anthony Harrington, Kevin Herrick, Cheryl Kerivan, Rebecca Kurth, Jennifer McCormick, Eugenio Munoz-Villafane, Jennifer Murphy, Mike Murphy, Usha Ramachandran, Mary Roberts, Anya Wright 

Plan and Innovate for the Future: Facilities Upgrades due to COVID-19 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new expectations to Facility Maintenance practices and requests. Air quality and purification have come to the forefront as well as touchless building fixtures including faucets, flush valves, sensor soap, paper towel dispensers and automatic door openers in restrooms and main entrances. Employees, customers and event holders are expecting a cleaner, safer environment to work and hold their special events. This cross departmental team has shown excellence in researching, planning and providing new methods to create safer conditions for employees, citizens and visitors.  

Team: Kevin Cullens, Steven D'Angelo, Theodore Dockendorf, Ken Goucher, Joe Mannino, James Marino, Gary Meyer, Donovan Shaw, Scott Turner, Jason Vasquez 

Learn and Grow Continuously: Danielle Taebel, City Attorney’s office manager

The City Attorney’s Office had several vacant positions, but due to budget constraints, they could not be filled. Lots of work, little resources! Danielle jumped in to assist when and where needed – not an easy task considering her already demanding job as office manager. She constantly challenges herself for the city’s betterment, taking on added leadership roles in order to grow professionally. She always rises to the occasion, never lets anyone down and always has a warm happy smile. She is an invaluable member of the team.  

Respect the Individual: Jonathan Montoya, Human Services representative 

Demand for assistance due to job loss as a result of COVID-19 has drastically affected social service center Vista del Camino. It left staff scrambling. When the facility opened back up in June, health and safety were priorities. However, staff was pulled in many directions and needed to find a way to monitor those entering the building without dedicating someone to staff the area. Enter Jonathan! He took the initiative to research how Vista could create a self-serve station. He found a wall-mounted thermometer residents could use upon entering and discovered a free computer application he customized to create all the information staff needed on that particular client. This eliminated the need for an extra person or two to monitor the COVID-19 check-in station. 

William P. Schrader Volunteer Impact Award: The Core Four 

This group is a dynamic quartet of volunteers all of whom began serving our city as career coaches after retiring from their respective professions. This group assists job seekers in need of support, coaching, encouragement and guidance on their career paths by providing the latest job search techniques and tools for landing employment. For the last three years, the Core Four conducted weekly job-seeking workshops, coached job seekers one-on-one and provided administrative support for the day-to-day Career Center operations. As COVID-19 stopped regular operations, its support and dedication did not. These four stayed available, engaged and ready to assist whenever and wherever possible. Since the start of COVID-19, this team has volunteered more than 300 hours – and you can imagine how needed their services have been during these trying times. 

Team: Tony Coates, David Murphy, Jill Kanalos, Roger Lurie 

bloomberg philanthropies announces scottsdale as What Works Cities 2019 silver certification

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