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Time to Give Public Servants Some Credit

Among the 30 finalists for the Sammies, from left: Thomas Waldmann, National Cancer Institute; Gail Lovelace, GSA; Michael German, Interagency Council on Homelessness; and Janet Kemp, the VA suicide-prevention program.
Among the 30 finalists for the Sammies, from left: Thomas Waldmann, National Cancer Institute; Gail Lovelace, GSA; Michael German, Interagency Council on Homelessness; and Janet Kemp, the VA suicide-prevention program. (Courtesy Of National Institutes Of Health/national Cancer Institute - Courtesy Of National Institutes Of Health/national Cancer Institute)
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By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Maybe Mother Nature didn't get the memo. She might decide to rain, the weather forecast says, all over the days set aside for federal and other public employees to shine.

This week is Public Service Recognition Week, a time to honor workers at all levels of government. Part of the celebration is a fair, Thursday through Sunday, on the Mall, where more than 100 agencies and other organizations will offer exhibits showcasing the work of public employees.

One of the highlights will be a Capitol Hill ceremony tomorrow in which 30 finalists for the Service to America Medals, or Sammies, will be honored. These folks have made outstanding contributions to the nation, often in the form of work that directly saved lives.

Eight medalists -- in categories such as citizen service, career achievement and call to service -- will be announced at a September black-tie gala, where a Federal Employee of the Year also will be honored.

"We expect an awful lot of our public servants," said Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service. "We also should recognize the great achievements they are accomplishing."

The partnership sponsors the awards and is host, along with the Public Employees Roundtable, of the activities on the Mall.

The week is important, Stier said, because it provides "focus and attention on the value of public servants, who otherwise get no attention or are the subject of guilt by association" when things go wrong.

Almost 100 government officials at all levels from across the country have issued proclamations observing this week, he added.

Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) was one of those noting the accomplishments of public servants, but he did it in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday. These public servants often don't get their share of praise, and it's "all too often a thankless job," he said.

"In the recent past, the disparagement of our federal employees . . . has become, sadly, commonplace," he said. "Diminishing their contribution to this nation is an all-too-frequent exercise."

Here's a brief look at four federal employees who are among the 30 finalists for the Sammies.

Michael German is the national team leader for the Interagency Council on Homelessness in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Walk through any big city's downtown, and the shame of America's homelessness problem is apparent. It would have been worse without German's work.


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