Scottsdale honors its employees

Assisting a disabled resident in need. Expanding law enforcement’s ability to address and treat opioid overdoses. Improving the lives of at-risk children and families. Those are just some of the actions over the past year by Scottsdale employees honored for their outstanding work performance and commitment to the Scottsdale community.

In all, 36 employees and one volunteer were honored at Scottsdale’s annual Employee Awards Program Dec. 19 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The winners were among more than 250 employees nominated in several categories.

Here’s a summary of those honored and their contributions:

Donaldson Award: Recreation Leader Norma Saldana

The Herb Drinkwater Award recognizes an employee’s selfless dedication to serving others. Norma exemplifies the character of this award through her commitment to community, caring spirit and her tireless, selfless dedication to service. A city employee of 26 years, she has come to impact the lives of many individuals and has left a legacy in our community. She has been the rock for many families and has mentored many young people, parents and now a new generation of family members.

She highlights time-honored traditions through dance, music, cultural displays and her work with the Parade of Roses and Ballet Folklorico. She’s had an incredibly positive and lasting impact on the children she has worked with in her programs.

Drinkwater Award: Water Resources Director Brian Biesemeyer

Living a double life is not easy. But for 18 months, Brian handled his duties as both water resources director and interim city manager with finesse and what looked like relative ease.

He demonstrated a balanced approach to managing both roles. Brian worked with all levels of staff and the City Council to ensure the organization effectively and efficiently moved forward.

What’s more, Brian is appreciated and respected among all levels of Water Resources staff — not just because he makes great waffles.

He motivates and recognizes staff for their knowledge and expertise. He provides the tools to make them successful. He promotes and facilitates innovation.

He challenges himself and his staff to identify projects that will take the division to the next level, streamline current practices or update the latest technology.

Brian is dedicated to making the workplace safe, productive and respected. And he has fun doing it!

The late Bill Donaldson believed in teamwork and empowering employees to apply their special talents for the good of the organization and community.

Brian Biesemeyer embodies these special traits, and we’re extremely fortunate he provides his talent and creativity to make Scottsdale a better place.

Thanks to You Award: Bill Wilson, wastewater collections lead

The owner of a residence in Scottsdale had an ongoing sewer problem that she just couldn’t solve, despite lots of time and money spent with plumbers. The owner ultimately called the city for assistance.

This is where Bill stepped into the picture. He arranged a site meeting to thoroughly understand the problem. He arranged to have the city’s side of the sewer system inspected and found the problem – damage that was causing the backups and needed repair.

This resident had been dealing with this problem for years, but Bill’s thorough response solved it. Here’s just a small piece of what she said in her letter of thanks:

“You have saved the day regarding this sewer situation. I have been so worried and at such a loss not knowing how to go forward. Your kind input and guidance has finally solved this situation. Thank you so much!”

The People’s Choice Award: Security Guard Larry Scott

City Hall usually has two security guards, but for a six-month period, there was a vacant position. This left Larry solely responsible to monitor City Hall and the surrounding grounds and to respond to any situations at One Civic Center.

Larry worked five days a week, 10 hours a day – often longer if there was a council, board or commission meeting. He did not take a single day off – no sick day, no vacation – and he was the happiest and friendliest person in the building.

Larry is no longer solo at City Hall, but he remains an “ambassador” for the city. He shares background information and history of the building and gives tours of the Kiva, showing off the stained-glass windows. He makes visitors feel welcome, whether they are meeting at City Hall, or need directions to another location – all this while ensuring the safety of City Hall staff.

Show Caring and Compassion for Others: Equipment operators Fernando Alonzo and Raymond Montoya

This duo met a retired, disabled resident who lives alone and uses a wheelchair fulltime.

Trash and recycling collection is a real challenge for this resident because he can’t reach the collection barrels or push them out to the curb for pick up.

For the past year, both operators have faithfully stopped their trucks to walk the resident’s containers down from the house to the street, dump them, then return them to their original locations without fail – and with a smile and wave.

The resident recently took the time to share his thanks for the caring service. To him, this small gesture has made a big difference.

Listen, Communicate, Take Action: Paiute Fence Team

Paiute Neighborhood Center needed some serious security improvements – including a new fence.

Michelle Albanese, Chad Beougher and Justin Boyd coordinated with several departments and agencies to make the project happen. The new security fence features computer-controlled gates which up the safety of the neighborhood center, which is critical to the many children and families who go to Paiute for educational and enrichment programs.

Be Accountable and Act with Integrity: Luis Santaella, senior assistant city attorney

Earlier this year, Governor Doug Ducey declared a Public Health State of Emergency in response to the increase in opioid deaths in Arizona. In 2016, 790 people in Arizona died from opioid overdoses.

Luis identified a problem — civilian law enforcement personnel like detention officers, police aides and crime scene specialists lacked legal authority to administer Narcan, which is a lifesaving treatment for people suffering from an overdose.

Luis worked with the Department of Health Services to obtain an emergency order to allow properly trained civilian law enforcement personnel to administer the treatment and hopefully save lives.

Collaborate as a Team: City Clerk’s Office Awesome Early Voting Superstars

Carolyn Jagger and her team hosted a few thousand people over a few weeks for early voting at City Hall during last year’s General Election. In fact, Scottsdale was the No. 1 early voting site in Maricopa County and set daily early voter participation records.

This team — Cathie Butteweg, Karen Dingman, Chris Feltz, Larry Scott and Erica Smith – anticipated the high turnout and developed a plan that allowed people to wait comfortably and vote in an orderly fashion. The team accommodated voters by opening early and staying late. The county deemed Scottsdale the most efficient early voting site because of this team’s ability to process more early voters in less time than any other site – and they did it with smiles!

Focus on Quality Customer Service: Human Resources analysts Amy Barczak and Denise Garcia

Amy and Denise help fellow employees understand and navigate through our many benefits. They assist with everything from insurance claims and vacation donations to FMLA and disability issues – and everything else in between.

This can be some stressful stuff. Amy and Denise handle calls promptly, treat employees with respect and maintain confidentiality. Here are just two of the many kudos that have come into HR from employees this year who worked with Amy and Denise:

“Thank you for helping me get reimbursed for a claim I didn’t know I was able to get taken care of. I was so worried I lost out on money! You really came through for me when I needed it most.”

“Thanks for helping me get paid when I didn’t have any time left. You melted my worries away and allowed me to focus on what was important.”

Plan and Innovate for the Future: Restorative Justice Intervention Program Team

This cross-department team created the Restorative Justice Intervention Program, which is an alternative to arrest for first first-time juvenile offenders.

When a young person gets into trouble, they can voluntarily enter the program and if they complete it successfully, move on with their lives without an arrest or court record.

The efforts of this team have an impact that will last a lifetime for those that participate and demonstrates Scottsdale’s commitment to creative problem-solving for the benefit of our residents.

Winning team members are Sue Caughey, Bruce Ciolli, Helen Gandara, Brian Hartman, Cassie Johnson, Joanne Meierdirks, Nora O’Connell Krause, Jeromie O’Meara, Timothy Ostby, Whitney Pitt, Matt Rigberg, Matt Roadifer and Luis Santaella.

Learn and Grow Continuously: Servant Leadership Team

The Scottsdale Police Department adopted the servant-leadership philosophy, which shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people.

This was a big change for the department, which required training to do it right.

The Police Department teamed up with the Office of Citizen Services to create and facilitate courses to implement this new philosophy.

Thanks to this team’s efforts, a collaborative and innovate new curriculum helps our public safety leaders focus on the growth and well-being of people and the community they serve.

Winning team members are Christy Hill, Michael Keran, Joseph Leduc, Rich Slavin and Kit Weiss.

Respect the Individual: Human Services Specialist Mike Lopach

Mike serves clients from all walks of life at the Paiute Neighborhood Center and he never gives up when presented with a particularly difficult situation. Such was the case when a client walked into Paiute and needed to see Mike immediately.

When Mike met with her, it was clear she was very ill. He spearheaded several services for the client, including an oncology screening the very next day. Unfortunately, the woman was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, but Mike was able to secure ongoing medical treatment.

In the months following the intervention, Mike assisted the client in securing housing, obtained nutrition services and provided ongoing case management — helping this client at a time when her coping skills were at their lowest.

William P. Schrader Volunteer Impact Award: Betty Ames

Betty Ames is a longtime volunteer with the city of Scottsdale at the Paiute Community Center. Betty likes to say that she “came with the mortgage” – and has volunteered at Paiute since it opened in 1995.

As far back as the current staff can remember, Betty not only joyously arrives at Paiute to volunteer, but also arrives with food or other items for her neighbors.

This story from a few months ago really tells you who Betty is:

A man arrived at Paiute after being discharged from a hospital – he was trying to get on the bus, but he was not allowed because he did not have shoes.

While staff searched for footwear for the gentleman, Betty engaged him in conversation at the front desk. Betty determined that their shoe sizes were “close enough” and before staff returned, she had literally given this man the shoes off her feet.

When asked later about her generous act, Betty said, “It was the right thing to do…I’m just glad he didn’t come in without pants.”

Betty Ames embodies the spirit of a volunteer. She gives of her time and talents without regard to how it may benefit her. The Paiute center and neighborhood have always benefited tremendously from her engaged and compassionate spirit.