These are some of the 33 federal employees nominated for the 11th annual 2012 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. The awards are among the highest honors in the federal world, recognizing public servants in fields ranging from human resources to aeronautics.
With recent government scandals dominating the headlines and the federal workforce under scrutiny as presidential contenders debate the size and role of government, the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service hopes the annual “Sammies” will show civil servants in a more positive light.
“We have had a constant drumbeat of negative attention to government workers,” said Max Stier, the partnership’s president and chief executive. “The mistakes get our attention, but in terms of the impact on the general public, we have people here who are actually addressing the problems of the American people.”
Nine medals will be awarded in the fall, including one for federal employee of the year.
The 33 finalists were selected from more than 400 nominations by their managers and colleagues. They will be recognized Wednesday at a breakfast in Washington as part of Public Service Recognition Week, which observes the contributions of local, state and federal civil servants.
Most finalists work in the Washington area. Some are members of teams that have been nominated. Some are starting their careers, while others’ public service is drawing to a close.
The Washington Post spoke with three of the finalists.
●As special agent in charge of the Archival Recovery Team for the inspector general’s office at the National Archives, Kelly Maltagliati has a job that mixes law enforcement, history and sleuthing.
Since 2006, she’s led a small team of investigators on a mission to recover stolen treasure. A vast number of historical documents have been stolen from the Archives, including Civil War letters and artifacts in presidential libraries. Acting on tips, the team scours eBay and contacts collectors, many of whom have unwittingly bought and sold stolen property.
One of the team’s biggest cases came to a close last week with the sentencing to 18 months in prison of Leslie Waffen, the former chief of the Archives’ audiovisual holdings, who admitted stealing almost 1,000 recordings, including original radio reports on the 1937 Hindenburg zeppelin disaster.
Maltagliati, who started her law enforcement career at the U.S. Customs Service, said one nice thing about her work is the collaboration with Archives officials.
“Sometimes inspector general staff are perceived as watchdogs, and it can be adversarial,” she said. “We’ve been able to work hand in hand with the agency. It’s the feel-good side of the inspector general’s office.”