Tis the season for public-employee awards


U.S. President Barack Obama presents the National Teacher of the Year award to Sean McComb during a ceremony at the White House on May 1, 2014. (Win McNamee/Getty Images).

‘Tis the season to be jolly — if you are among the federal employees being honored with awards this week.

While the finalists for the government-wide Service to America Medals were introduced with great fanfare by the Partnership for Public Service on Tuesday, agencies also are presenting awards to their employees  during this Public Service Recognition Week

Agriculture Secretary Thomas E. Vilsack honored 15 employees at the 30th Annual Unsung Hero Award Program Wednesday. Apparently taking the unsung part seriously, officials kept the program closed to the press.

The awards are given to employees “who have demonstrated extraordinary effort in performing their duties, have gone above and beyond their job description to help others, and in some cases have even saved lives,” said Rachael Dubinsky, the department’s deputy press secretary.

On Thursday, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez will present more than 100 medallions to recipients of the department’s “Honor Awards.”  The awards recognize work in such areas as helping veterans find employment, improving workplace safety and protecting the rights and wages of vulnerable workers, according to the Labor Department.

The medallions might get as much attention as the recipients.  Each 3.5-inch bronze-plated medallion is engraved with the department’s seal and  set in a velvet-lined oak, apple or pecan display case. The awards were designed and crafted by 16 machining and carpentry students at the department’s Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos, Texas.

“The skill and craftsmanship that went into making these medals epitomizes the array of opportunities provided by the 125 Job Corps centers across the country to young people eager for training that leads to bright futures,” Perez said in a press release. “All of us at the department thank the talented students at the Gary Jobs Corps Center for creating the awards and giving renewed meaning to the importance of public service.”

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012.
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