The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The federal public servants doing groundbreaking work during the pandemic

Center for Disease Control and Prevention official Anne Schuchat in 2016. Schuchart is nominated for a “Sammie.”
Center for Disease Control and Prevention official Anne Schuchat in 2016. Schuchart is nominated for a “Sammie.” (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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One person created a State Department task force to repatriate more than 100,000 Americans stranded all over the world when the coronavirus pandemic closed borders and shut down airports.

Another led a first-of-its-kind government team that worked with technology companies to combat misinformation about the 2020 U.S. Census. Another oversaw the landing of a rover on Mars.

These are three of the 29 finalists for the annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, or “Sammies,” one of the highest honors for federal civil servants. Finalists are nominated in six categories, including career achievement and emerging leaders. This year, a medal will also be awarded to a federal worker or team that played a leading role responding to the coronavirus.

The achievements honored range from a breakthrough medical treatment for children with inoperable tumors to a new method for crime labs to identify opioids and other drugs more quickly and safely.

The finalists will be recognized in a virtual event Wednesday by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service and Axios. Much of the work honored this year was conducted from home offices, as the pandemic shifted large parts of the federal government to telework.

“For each of the unprecedented challenges we have faced in the last year, dedicated public servants have worked behind the scenes to move our country forward, heal our nation and strengthen our democracy,” Max Stier, the partnership’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

The Sammies, named for the partnership’s late founder, have honored more than 500 federal employees since their inception in 2002. The finalists are being announced during Public Service Recognition Week, which celebrates the contributions of civil servants in local, state and federal government.

The winners will be chosen by a committee that includes leaders from government, universities, businesses and the media.

The finalists also are eligible for a “People’s Choice” award, the winner of which will be announced in the summer.

The finalists:

Career achievement

●C. Mark Eakin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, College Park, Md.

●Paul Friday, Census Bureau, Suitland, Md.

●Evan R. Kwerel, Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C.

●Gregory M. Ruiz, Smithsonian Institution, Edgewater, Md.

●Anne Schuchat, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

Covid-19 response

●Ian Brownlee and the interagency covid repatriation team, State Department, Washington, D.C.

●Virginia K. Busby, Dianne Garibotto, Camille Privett and the Economic Impact Payment team, Internal Revenue Service, Atlanta; Andover, Mass.; Kansas City, Mo.

●Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Barney S. Graham, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

●Gary H. Gibbons and Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

●Peter Marks, Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Md.

Emerging leaders

●William Hart-Cooper, Agriculture Department, Albany, Calif.

●Callie I. Higgins, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, Colo.

●Edward Sisco, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md.

●Lori Vislocky, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.

Management excellence

●Michelle Daniels, Charles D. Eldridge, Ryan E. Jones and the Foster Youth to Independence team, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C., Fort Worth, Tex.

●Mary Frances Matthews, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.

●Mary D. Gibert, General Services Administration, Washington, D.C.

●Stephen G. Jurczyk, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C.

●Gary Washington, Agriculture Department, Washington, D.C.

Safety, security and international affairs

●Ana B. Hinojosa, Eric Choy and team, Customs and Border Protection, Washington, D.C.

●Kenneth Graham, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Miami.

●●Adam Jacoff and the Emergency Response Robotics team, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md.

●Chong Le, Department of the Air Force, El Segundo, Calif.

●Zack Schwartz and the Census Bureau Trust & Safety Team, Census Bureau, Suitland, Md.

Science and environment

●●Jay Barlow, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, La Jolla, Calif.

●David L. Boucher, John Lee, Daniel Wolfe and the Ebola Medical Countermeasures Task Force, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Washington, D.C.

●Reem M. Ghandour, Health Resources and Services Administration, Rockville, Md.

●Sherry Hunt, Agriculture Department, Stillwater, Okla.

●Brigitte C. Widemann and team, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.