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Votes

Recognizing Best in Federal Service

Virginia leads in 'Sammie' nominees.

Nine residents of Northern Virginia are among the 30 nominees selected as potential recipients of the 2005 Service to America Medals. Each was cited for "the extraordinary work they do for America every day."

In recognizing the federal employees at a ceremony on Capital Hill, Max Stier, president and CEO, Partnership for Public Service, said, "This is an opportunity to share with everyone the story of our federal workers."

Created in 2002 by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing public service, and the magazines of Atlantic Media, Government Executive, National Journal and The Atlantic Monthly, the Service to America Medals recognize the accomplishments of the nation's public servants.

"This program, Government Executive, concentrated on recognizing teams in government. However, in the wake of 9/11 the time is right to recognize individuals as well as teams who do the work of government," said Timothy B. Clark, editor and president, Government Executive magazine.

"This program recognizes the work of people in federal agencies who contribute to the welfare of all of us," Clark told the crowd assembled at the Reserve Officers Association Building June 30.

KNOWN AS THE "SAMMIES," the Service to America Medals are awarded based on the recommendations of a selection committee, headed by Stier and Clark, comprised of federal elected representatives, government officials, journalists, nonprofit organization leaders, and corporate and higher education representatives.

One member of the Selection Committee is U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, (R-11). Four of his constituents are among the nine nominees from Northern Virginia.

"It is all too easy to overlook the important and daily contributions of the men and women in our federal workforce, but they are the heroes behind the headlines who make our nation work," Davis said. "Now more than ever, our country needs exceptional and dedicated federal employees and I commend them for answering that call to service."

Those constituents are: Allen Gina of Annandale, executive director, Container Security Initiative Division, Customs and Border Security, and James Williams of Vienna, director, US-VISIT Program, both with Department of Homeland Security; Dave Gabel of Arlington, IPT Leader, Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office, Department of Defense; and Barbara Turner of Falls Church, deputy assistant administrator, Agency for International Development.

They are joined by five other Northern Virginia residents: James H. Hall III, of Falls Church, deputy assistant secretary, Technical Assistance Policy, Office of International Affairs, Treasury Department; James Jeffrey, deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, Iraq, State Department; Coral Childs of Alexandria, program analyst, General Services Administration; Terrance Lutes, of Alexandria, associate CIO, IT Services, Internal Revenue Service; and Dennis Wagner of Alexandria, director, Organ Donor Breakthrough Collaborative, Health and Human Services Department.

According to Stier's description of Lutes' nomination, his work in developing on-line tax filing and speeding refund checks to taxpayers "has made the IRS more popular than McDonalds."

A 24-year veteran of the IRS, Lutes started his government career in Kansas and has lived and worked in all areas of the country. He has been a resident of Kingstowne in Fairfax County's Lee District since 1996. He viewed his nomination as "very significant on a personal level."

Williams launched US-VISIT in May 2003 to oversee "who comes and goes to and from the United States," Stier said in describing his nomination.

"It put in place a biometric system designed to increase our security. We want to know who is entering and who is leaving," Williams said.

US-VISIT covers all ports of entry to the United States, both air and sea. "We are now covering land crossings as well. We have processed over 30 million people since 9/11. And we've stopped over 700 bad people from getting in," Williams said.

Prior to this assignment, Williams was also affiliated with the

IRS. "In 26 years of government service I've never had a dull day," he said.

DURING HIS introductions of the nominees, Stier described the services of the others as follows:

* Allen Gina: "He has extended our security outward by prescreening containers in 36 cities and 20 countries worldwide."

* Dave Gabel: "He led the reconstruction of the Pentagon after 9/11. They worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It was completed 28 days early and millions of dollars under budget."

* Coral Childs: "One of the United States' biggest challenges in this information age is to bring technology to our schools. She coordinated the government's efforts to bring 118,000 computers and related equipment to 12,000 needy schools.

* Dennis Wagner: "He and his team developed and conducted initiatives that has generated major rapid increases in organ donations in the United States. These initiatives could double the number of transplants. They already have saved or enhanced 1,400 lives in 2004."

* James H. Fall, III: "Throughout his 38-year career in such places as Vietnam, France and Germany he has provided advice enabling nation to establish and enhance their economies. He led the expansion of Treasury's international technical assistance program which has strengthened the financial systems in 70 nations around the world. This included introducing a new currency in Iraq."

* James Jeffrey: "A Vietnam veteran, he has spent three decades in global hot spots including Iraq, where he is today. He helped establish the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and serves as chief operating officer of that mission. He has gone where the need is greatest and risks are the highest."

* Barbara Turner: "She is living proof you can go from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top. Starting as a secretary, today she is one of the highest ranking members of the Agency for International Development. She has played a critical role in the agency's work in Egypt, the former Soviet Union, Bosnia and many other countries. She led the agency's $900 million aid package for the recent tsunami victims."

A record number of nominations were generated this year, according to Stier. Finalists hail from 12 states — California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia — plus the District of Columbia. Two of them are currently on assignment in Iraq. Eighty-five percent of the federal workforce is based outside the Washington Metropolitan area.

In addition to national recognition, the winners will receive monetary awards ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.

More than half the federal workforce may be eligible to retire in the next few years. Surveys show that few Americans see federal employment as an opportunity to make a difference, according to the Partnership. A primary goal of this program is to change that perception.