Governor Recognizes Commonwealth Employees for Outstanding Achievements and Dedication to Public Service

Governor Josh Shapiro presented the Governor’s Awards for Excellence to 54 Commonwealth employees from eight state agencies and thanked all state employees for their dedication to public service.

“I’ve said many times before, my Administration has a ‘get stuff done’ attitude. We focus on getting stuff done for the good people of Pennsylvania – and that’s only possible because of the 80,000 Commonwealth employees who go to work every day to serve,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “Whether it was our Avian Flu Veterinary Response Team’s immediate response to the avian flu crisis, or our Next Generation 911 team’s work to modernize our 911 systems across all 67 counties, or our Pennsylvania State Police Troopers putting their lives on the line to keep our fellow Pennsylvanians safe – these individuals stepped up to lead in the face of challenges and delivered tangible results to make a real positive difference in Pennsylvanians’ lives. I congratulate our honorees and thank them for their contributions, dedication, and commitment to service.”

Twenty-seven state agencies submitted a total of 207 nominations prepared by their employees, with two individuals and eight group nominations selected as winners for this year’s awards. Commonwealth employees were recognized for their outstanding work to support Pennsylvania’s poultry industry during the 2022 Avian Influenza outbreak, to provide all Pennsylvania counties with a modern 911 system, for the immediate response to the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse that rebuilt the bridge in less than a year, and more.

The award recipients are:

Deepanker Tewari – Department of Agriculture

For leading a team of technicians and veterinary diagnostic specialists that provided crucial support to Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry during the 2022 outbreak of Avian Influenza. The highly skilled team processed high volumes of samples to provide quick and accurate test results so that field staff could direct the emergency response. Under Dr. Tewari’s leadership, the laboratory team worked efficiently and produced innovative research during the costliest animal health and poultry industry crisis in Pennsylvania and U.S. history.

Avian Influenza Veterinary Field Response Team – Department of Agriculture

Erin Ackerman, Sally Adams, Nancy Diehl, Dawn Dilling, Amberlee Dressler, Sarah McAlanis, Amy Nesselrodt, Heather Palm, Jessica Wingate, and Sarah Yurisic

For leading the field response during the Avian Influenza outbreak, which involved long hours of planning and coordination across federal, state, and local agencies. The team focused on treating the animals and their owners with dignity and respect, and with understanding for cultural and religious differences. Their work minimized damage to the economy and food supply, as well as the emotional hardships for affected business owners.

Pandemic Recovery Grant Management Team – Office of the Budget

Sandra Bruno, Eric Gregerson, Jamie Jerosky, Colleen Kling, Samantha Lockhart, Christine Rowe, Brad Woznisky, and Debra Yutko

For ensuring that Pennsylvania can take full advantage of federal funding available for COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery. This team developed a strategy and a new system to collect, transform, and prepare data for submission to the U.S. Treasury that completely and accurately reports how funds are obligated and spent. The team has reported the use of over $5.8 billion in funds, including assistance for healthcare providers, affordable housing, college tuition, conservation and clean water programs, law enforcement, tourism, and other programs.

Gifford Pinchot State Park Rangers – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Steven Anderson, Alexander Dale, and Rachel Ann Oplinger

For saving the lives of two people on separate occasions as part of their duties as park rangers at Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County; an elderly visitor who experienced a medical emergency while hiking in the cold and an individual with a drug overdose. Thanks to the rangers’ quick thinking and responsiveness, these visitors in distress were found and rescued, resulting in successful outcomes for very serious emergencies.

Brian Clawson – Department of Corrections

For saving the life of a two-year-old child who had overdosed after accidentally ingesting methadone. Parole Agent Clawson was conducting surveillance on a fugitive case when he heard a 911 dispatch for an unresponsive child nearby. Agency Clawson rushed to the scene and administered Narcan to the child, who had stopped breathing. Medical personnel agree that Agent Clawson’s actions saved the child’s life.

Mpox Team – Department of Health

Beth Butler, Jill Garland, Melinda Johnston, Thomas McCleaf, Lisa McHugh, Atmaram Nambiar, Andrew Pickett, Mia Russo, Mari Jane Salem-Noll, and Jennifer Shirk

For leading a cross-bureau task force and virtual operations center during the 2022 mpox (formerly monkeypox) outbreak. This team was responsible for all aspects of the response effort, including case identification, coordination of testing and treatment, case investigation, contact tracing, community education, and vaccine distribution. Thanks to their work, Pennsylvania kept case counts low, with no deaths occurring in the Commonwealth.

Next Generation 911 Team – Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

Timothy Elbertson, Raymond Marino, Christian Przybylek, and Bill (Charles) Shertzer

For negotiating a contract that provides all Pennsylvania counties with modern 911 service and ensures the affordability of the program through 2030. This team worked with stakeholders, vendors, service providers, and telecommunications carriers to successfully migrate county 911 centers to the new, Next Generation 911 (NG911) system, and educated the public on the transition and its impact. Pennsylvania’s NG911 system is unlike any other in existence and will serve citizens and public safety well for years to come.

Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit – Pennsylvania State Police

Jeffrey Baney, Teddi Hesser, Amy Kreiger, and Todd McCurdy

For being the national model for a “cold case” unit and bringing resolution to unsolved homicides in Pennsylvania. This team initiated a cost-saving alternative for their personnel to conduct in-house forensic genetic genealogy research. Soon after being certified, the team quickly identified a deceased Jane Doe from 2016, bringing closure to the victim’s family. Five long term unsolved homicide cases were also successfully cleared by their efforts.

State Troopers Assigned to Troop N, Bloomsburg station – Pennsylvania State Police

Brent Beaver, Joseph Burke, and Thomas Butch

For displaying exceptional courage and heroism while engaging with an active shooter. These troopers did not hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way despite the danger of a gunman actively firing at passing motorists and residences. Due to their professionalism and courageousness, the deadly rampage was ended, and more innocent lives were undoubtedly saved.

Fern Hollow Bridge Team – Department of Transportation

Michele Acitelli, Robert Byrnes, Zachary Kamnikar, Brian Rampulla, Douglas Seeley, Shane Szalankiewicz, Michael Szurley, Douglas Thompson, Mark Young, and Jason Zang

For their exceptional work to rebuild Pittsburgh’s Fern Hollow Bridge in record time. The team immediately jumped into action following its collapse in January 2022, contracting with suppliers to remove the old structure, and to design and build the new Fern Hollow Bridge. Because of their innovative approach to the design process, multiple design phases occurred simultaneously, and the bridge was reopened to traffic in December 2022, less than a year after the collapse.