2015 Governor's Awards for Excellence

In 2015, the Office of State Human Resources received 86 nominations. Each year, the Awards Selection Committee has the difficult task of selecting the award recipients from all the nominations. It is not an easy process. There are countless state employees out there doing a lot of great things, so the competition for these awards is fierce. Fifteen state employees were selected, in six different categories.

2015 Governor's Awards for Excellence Recipients

Watch the videos for all of the 2015 recipients

2015 Governor's Awards for Excellence Ceremony

Cheryl Annette Straub

Cheryl Annette Straub  
University of North Carolina - Pembroke  
Lumberton, NC 


Annette Straub frequently says, “You can’t just answer the question they’re asking – you have to figure out what the next question is go­ing to be, and answer that one too.” That principle is the core of good customer service at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where Straub has come to serve as the university’s unofficial ombudsman.

As the Executive Assistant to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Enroll­ment, Straub helps students resolve problems with registration, finan­cial aid, student accounts, and other academic issues. She’s receptive, calm, and friendly, but also firm when handling delicate cases. Straub takes the extra step and even goes further to soothe students who are in distress after having passed unsuccessfully through several other offices before reaching her office.

Straub looks at problems in different ways and frequently uses that abil­ity to fix even more obscure problems for distraught students. In addi­tion to providing excellent service and serving as a model for other staff, Straub mentors staff throughout the enrollment offices.

Straub has been instrumental in saving students who were at the end of their rope, and who would have had no recourse if they had not found a resolution through her office. She has made a specialty of fixing cases that seem unfixable, and she has done so with excellence far beyond the expectations of any supervisor or the university itself. Her supervisor, Melissa Schaub, states it best, “If we didn’t have Annette, we would have to create a new position to do what she does.”

 Return to Top

Jeff GordonJeff Gordon 
State Highway Patrol, Department of Public Safety      
Clayton, NC      


Lt. Jeff Gordon is committed to his job at the Department of Public Safety (DPS). He is a Public Information Officer with the State Highway Patrol where he enjoys interacting with the public, providing them with information about day-to-day events and answering media questions. Lt. Gordon has earned an excellent reputation among reporters for being patient and responsive to their needs.

Working at DPS, Lt. Gordon knows first-hand the dangers of distracted driving, especially among teenagers. Statistics show teens are involved in three times as many fatal car crashes as all other drivers. He remem­bers responding to his first fatal crash in Robeson County and finding a 16-year-old girl ejected from her car. He had to deliver the sad news to her parents. That experience has stuck with him to this day.

Law enforcement officers frequently visit high schools to talk to teens about the dangers of texting and driving. Lt. Gordon wanted to engage teens on another level, by providing something interactive for them, so he developed the idea of offering the Highway Patrol’s driving simulator to high schools. The simulator can be programmed with driving scenar­ios to safely demonstrate the dangers of texting and other distractions while driving. Lt. Gordon worked with State Farm Insurance to secure the funds needed to buy a truck to tow the simulator to locations across the state.

Lt. Gordon oversaw the preparations for making the simulator avail­able, sending out press releases and organizing a press conference to increase awareness. Thanks to his efforts, the simulator continues to make a big impression on teens who are now able to see how dangerous it is to be distracted while behind the wheel. Lt. Gordon is proud to be involved in a program that saves teenagers’ lives.

Return to Top

Chris Niver and Thomas SlusserChris Niver and Thomas Slusser
Department of Transportation & Department of Environmental Quality        
Raleigh, NC                                                                                                                                 


Chris Niver of the Department of Transportion (DOT), in partnership with Thomas Slusser of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), played a critical role in developing a common sense solution to a complex problem, while putting taxpayers dollars to good use. This duo is being recognized for developing an innovative groundwater remedia­tion strategy that is cost-effective and has multiple benefits to many public and private stakeholders.

Their idea to treat polluted groundwater was to use high-fructose corn syrup from expired sugared beverages. Niver approached Pepsi Bot­tling Ventures (PBV) about it, and PBV agreed to provide infrastructure and labor to reformulate and repurpose expired sugared beverages. They called it the Beverage Remediation Product (BRP).

Slusser worked closely with Niver to design a pilot test to use BRP. Slusser also worked closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to design a monitoring plan to gather information to evaluate performance effectiveness, ensure protection of groundwater resourc­es, and conduct a health risk evaluation of the injectant. The pilot test proved very successful and occurred at a cost savings of 65 percent over other alternatives. The use of BRP will allow DOT to remediate nearly three large sites for the cost of remediating one with existing technologies.

The use of BRP resulted in reduced waste disposal costs and the load on Raleigh’s treatment plants as well as material and labor costs for DOT’s cleanup. This innovative collaboration of state agencies and PBV can help accelerate site cleanups, meet regulatory mandates more economically, and ultimately reduce risks to human and environmental health. BRP was added to DEQ’s list of approved injectants in Decem­ber 2014 and is now approved for use statewide. The efforts of Slusser and Niver helped promote a greener business industry, a cleaner envi­ronment, and a more efficient use of natural resources while maintain­ing operational efficiency.

Return to Top

Justine R. HollingsheadJustine R. Hollingshead 
North Carolina State University                          
Morrisville, NC    


Justine Hollingshead’s job as an Assistant to the Vice Chancellor and Dean at North Carolina State University (NCSU) is centered on student affairs. However, on February 11, 2015, she went above and beyond when a tragedy struck the NCSU community, as well as Chapel Hill. Two NCSU alumni and a current student were murdered at their home in nearby Chapel Hill.

Within 24 hours of learning of the deaths of “Our Three Winners,” Hol­lingshead brought together all facets of the university to ensure stu­dents were cared for, the families of the victims had university support, and the community had a place to heal.

Hollingshead showed leadership, grace, and strength of character while handling this tragic event. Not only did she help coordinate pop-up counseling services across campus, coordinated communication with the Colleges of Science and Design and Poole College of Management to make sure their students and staff had the mental health resources they needed, but she also maintained communication with UNC-Chapel Hill’s staff to coordinate messaging between the two universities.

Hollingshead became the point of contact for the friends and family of the deceased. She also immersed herself in learning customs of an Islamic funeral and burial. On the day of the funeral, she coordinated the arrival of dignitaries and university ambassadors, facilitated Wolfline bus routes for students to attend, and worked out various logistics for the media. That evening, Hollingshead secured a production company to set up a stage, lighting, and sound for an on-campus vigil in the university’s Brickyard.

Hollingshead’s compassion and thoughtfulness in planning the univer­sity’s response to this tragic event went above and beyond what anyone could have expected. NC State University and the State of North Caro­lina are lucky to have such an outstanding employee. 

Return to Top

Tarsha K. CrispTarsha K. Crisp 
Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security            
Durham, NC                                                                                                                                             


Tarsha Crisp is an adjudicator at the Division of Employment Security (DES) with the Department of Commerce. She is credited with identi­fying a problem within the unemployment law and DES’s policies that ultimately led to the passage of House Bill 4.

Crisp noticed that prior to June 30, 2013, if a person claimed “Lack of Work” as the reason for their separation from employment, and the claimant raised no other issues, then payment would be released as soon as the claimant served a waiting period of one week. The pay­ments were disbursed even before former employers could respond and contest the awarding of unemployment insurance benefits. This was a serious problem causing many overpayments.

Crisp raised her concerns in front of a group of her peers and caught her supervisor’s attention. Her suggestion sparked a change in employment security law and saved the unemployment insurance system millions of dollars over the past year.

On July 1, 2013, House Bill 4 became effective in North Carolina. It contained a provision that now gave employers 14 days to respond to a notice of claim and separation. In order to fix the problem, the benefits payment system now sets a hold on a claim until the due date for the employer’s written response has expired. It was Crisp’s insight that was the catalyst for the Division and the North Carolina Legislature to make a change. The new law better meets the needs of both claimants and employers. The change has helped to improve fairness in claims man­agement and has also prevented many overpayments from occurring.

Return to Top

Fessor McCoy & Angela McCoyAngela McCoy & Fessor McCoy 
Department of Health and Human Services                  
Dudley, NC


The husband and wife team of Angela and Fessor McCoy exemplifies the act of compassion on a consistent basis in their day-to-day activities, at work and at home.

The McCoys work for the Department of Health and Human Services at O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center as Home Life Program Manag­ers. They are responsible for the care and well-being of residents who are medically fragile, with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The McCoys give the residents special attention and ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect at all times, in life and in death.

The couple has dedicated their lives to the service of others. Part of their job is to arrange memorial services when the residents they serve pass away. Death can be emotionally challenging: adjusting to the loss of a loved one, a family member, and the void they leave behind. How­ever, the McCoys rise to the challenge and find ways to truly celebrate the lives of the residents with their O’Berry Center family and often with the residents’ natural families.

What makes the McCoys stand out: not only do they complete this tre­mendous task for the facility, but they have attended 21 funeral services in the past six years for residents from Henderson to Goldsboro, using their own personal time. They have assisted with the services at the re­quest of the families and attended because of their love of their O’Berry Center family.

Fessor often writes poems reflective of the residents’ lives that echo the impact they made in the lives of others, a legacy that will live on forever. This has given families so much peace and appreciation for the love, care, and friendship given to them during their time of grief by these two compassionate state employees.

Return to Top

Kenneth AsheKenneth Ashe 
Wildlife Resources Commission              
Franklin, NC      


Officer Kenneth Ashe works with the Wildlife Resources Commission. He is being recognized for giving children with special needs and disabled veterans an experience that can only be described as ex­ceptional. He found a way to share his passion for the wilderness, while providing these individuals with life-long memories of being outdoors.

Officer Ashe started planning hunting trips for children with special needs in 2012. He recruited support from local hunters, landowners, county commissioners, Emergency Medical Services, and volunteers to make the event happen. He secured donations for special equipment, such as track chairs and a motorized mobility system for quadriplegics, from his church and The National Wild Turkey Federation to make it possible for the children to hunt. The first hunt took place during turkey season in 2012. Two of the disabled children were able to harvest a wild turkey. After the success of the first event, Officer Ashe started plan­ning a hunt for the 2013 turkey season. More than 23 disabled children participated in that event.

He didn’t stop there. As a veteran, Officer Ashe also wanted to reach out to quadriplegic veterans. He contacted local Veteran Affairs offices to identify veterans who would be interested in the experience. Officer Ashe organized a wild turkey hunt in the spring of 2014, with 14 disabled veterans and 13 disabled children participating. The program also hosted a deer hunt in the Fall, with 17 disabled veterans and 14 disabled children participating.

Officer Ashe continues to expand his outreach beyond the woods. He’s organized softball games for children with special needs. He says it’s rewarding to see the look on their faces. As far as he’s concerned, he’ll keep organizing events, bigger and better if he can.

Return to Top

Lawrence V. KershawLawrence V. Kershaw 
Fayetteville State University              
Fayetteville, NC


Lawrence Kershaw is the Head Football Coach at Fayetteville State University (FSU). He has made astonishing contributions to the public through both individual and team participation in both on- and off-campus community service projects.

Coach Kershaw has led his team to exceed the total number of com­munity service hours on record for the football program during his first year as head coach. While in his second year, the team is on track for breaking a departmental record for the variety and total number of hours performed by any single team in one academic year with nearly 1,000 hours of community service. The Athletics Department continues to receive notes of appreciation from non-profit organizations like Urban Ministries, thanking the team for cleaning up and stocking cans for their weekly food bank. The football program also makes weekly visits to the Fayetteville Veterans Medical Center to listen and talk to hundreds of veterans. Coach Kershaw also joins the team when they go to Cliffdale Elementary to read to the children.

Coach Kershaw makes himself and his players accessible to the public. He continues to raise the bar for professionalism and public service. He, along with 31 of his athletes, contributed 10 turkeys to support the Stu­dent Activities’ Turkey Trot Relays. This amounted to the largest pres­ence ever for the Department of Athletics in this annual campus initia­tive. Under Coach Kershaw’s direction, the FSU football program held its 1st Annual Youth Football Camp that was designed to help youth from ages 6 to 13 improve their football skills.

Coach Kershaw was presented with the 2014-2015 Fayetteville State Broncos Humanitarian Award at the Athletics Awards Ceremony this year. The Humanitarian Award is presented each year by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to an Athletics program who exemplifies the most dedication to community service and engagement.

Return to Top

Dr. Jean-Marie MaillardDr. Jean-Marie Maillard 
Department of Health and Human Services                    
Chapel Hill, NC


Dr. Jean-Marie Maillard is an expert in communicable disease epidemi­ology. For the past 25 years, Dr. Maillard has dutifully served the Com­municable Disease Branch (CDB) in the Division of Public Health of the Department of Health and Human Services. He has supervised innumer­able high-profile infectious disease outbreak investigations, managed targeted program delivery to reduce disease morbidity and mortality, and mentored dozens of epidemiologists, physicians, scientists, and nurses. During his long and productive tenure with the State, he has made North Carolinians safer by preventing disease and ultimately sav­ing lives.

In 2014, the unprecedented Ebola outbreaks in West Africa led to one of the largest coordinated public health responses in history. Dr. Mail­lard used five weeks of personal leave time to deploy to Senegal to help oversee planning and response efforts to the crisis. As a result of his efforts, Senegal was able to put plans in place to respond to Ebola. Senegal has been Ebola-free since then.

As the Medical Director for the Medical Consultation Unit in CDB, Dr. Maillard has provided leadership and subject matter expertise to successfully guide North Carolina Public Health’s response to this inter­national crisis. Specifically, he created, reviewed, and approved dozens of critical guidance documents for clinicians, hospitals, local health departments, and other stakeholders such as Emergency Manage­ment and first responders. Additionally, Dr. Maillard provided important subject matter expertise when one traveler from West Africa became ill and was transported to Duke University Medical Center as a suspected Ebola case. The patient was soon determined to be negative for Ebola; nonetheless the emergency response was skillfully executed as a result of months of planning, guidance development, and supervision from experts like Dr. Maillard.

Return to Top

Paula WoodhousePaula Woodhouse 
Office of State Human Resources            
Cary, NC


Paula Woodhouse is the Deputy Director of the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR). She has made a significant positive impact in the special needs community of North Carolina.

Woodhouse’s oldest child, Melissa, was born with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, a rare developmental disorder characterized by intellectual disability, delayed speech and language skills, sleep disorders, and be­havioral problems. Being a parent of a child with special needs is chal­lenging. It takes a lot of extra time, patience, and energy. Doctors visits, school assignments, and simple day-to-day routines are all difficult parts of having a child with a disability. Woodhouse and her family are com­mitted to helping other families who have children with disabilities feel loved and accepted.

As a result of her personal experience, Woodhouse and her family real­ized quickly that there was a huge need in North Carolina for a minis­try for children with special needs. Few churches provided services or activities that are appropriate and accepting of children with special needs. She understood how important it was to provide an environment where parents can worship in peace, knowing their children are cared for while they attended service.

Woodhouse also recognized the need to provide a Sunday School Class that would welcome and teach children with special needs about God. So, 15 years ago, Paula and her late husband, Barry, started the Special Needs Ministry at Brooks Avenue Church of Christ to fill this void.

The Woodhouses also created a Carnival for Children with Special Needs. This free event, held annually at the church, shares Triangle resources and support programs with families and allows children and their parents a chance to enjoy themselves for a few hours. It’s a won­derful networking event that lets the parents know that they are not alone. Since 2000, the Carnival has grown from a handful of volunteers and attendees to approximately 1,200 attendees in 2015.

Return to Top

Christopher J. MatosChristopher J. Matos 
State Highway Patrol, Department of Public Safety                  
Willard, NC


Taking risks and making tough decisions are part of the everyday job for those who work in law enforcement. Sometimes, employees choose to place their own life in danger so that others may be saved. On Friday, January 9, 2015, Trooper Christopher J. Matos demonstrated this by placing his own life in harm’s way.

Trooper Matos, while off duty in his personal vehicle, was traveling west on John Green Smith Road in Lenoir County. He saw a car that was trav­eling east start to slide uncontrollably on the icy roadway. The car went off the roadway onto the right shoulder, overturned within a creek, and came to rest upright. Trooper Matos turned around and drove toward the accident scene, where he saw that the car was partially submerged in the creek and was filling with water.

Without hesitation, Trooper Matos entered the frigid water to render aid. While in the water, Trooper Matos noticed the car’s front passenger window had been partially rolled down. After swimming around to the passenger side of the car, he helped a 14-year-old boy get out through the window. Trooper Matos then climbed partially within the vehicle and helped the female driver unbuckle her infant child from a child seat. He took the infant out of the car and placed the child in the care of another motorist who had stopped to help. Trooper Matos then helped the driver get out of the car as well.

Trooper Matos accompanied the mother and her two children to a nearby home where they were treated by emergency medical personnel for mild hypothermia. The selfless actions of Trooper Matos and those who assisted assured the safety of the mother and her children.

For his heroic act, Trooper Matos received The Highway Patrol Valor Award from the Department of Public Safety on May 19, 2015.

Return to Top

Angelia Stone SmithAngelia Stone Smith 
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services                        
Apex, NC


Angelia Smith works in Raleigh as a Technology Support Analyst for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Her act of heroism occurred over 700 miles away, in another state, on April 20, 2015.

Smith was in Massachusetts to support her husband and sister-in-law who ran in the Boston Marathon. While dinning out at a restaurant, they heard a loud sound similar to “someone slipping and falling.” Smith turned around to see what the commotion was and noticed a fellow marathon runner lying on the floor. She ran to the man, checked to see if he was breathing, and when he wasn’t, she immediately started chest compressions. After several compressions, the runner reached up and grabbed her arm to let her know that he had regained consciousness.

While watching the incident from his booth, the runner’s distraught father started to feel nauseous. All of a sudden he stopped breathing too. Smith, her husband, and a few others, managed to get the father out of the booth and onto the floor. Smith started CPR on him as well, and she was able to revive him too. By the time the ambulance ar­rived, both the father and son were awake. Emergency Medical Services personnel were astonished that Smith was able to work on both men so quickly.

Smith is a dedicated employee and an asset to the department. She serves on the agency’s safety committee and has a commitment to the agency’s safety and wellness program. Her courage and quick thinking likely saved two lives that day.

(Video of the Boston Marathon courtesy of Paulo Teixeira)

Return to Top

Talaya D. VaughnTalaya D. Vaughn 
Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles License & Theft Bureau        
Raleigh, NC


Talaya Vaughn works as an Inspector for the Department of Transpor­tation’s Division of Motor Vehicles License & Theft Bureau in District 4 (Greensboro area). She’s being honored for her selfless act during a serious accident.

The incident happened on July 20, 2014. Vaughn was off-duty with her friend and cousin, returning from a baby shower in Alabama. They were driving through Georgia when they witnessed a car drive off the interstate and crash head-on into a tree. The car caught on fire, with the driver inside. The fire quickly spread throughout the car, filling it with thick smoke. Vaughn immediately ran toward the car. She asked the driver if he was okay, but he was unconscious, slumped over the steering wheel. Vaughn entered the car, unbuckled the seat belt, and dragged the unconscious man out. She assisted the driver until local emergency personnel arrived on the scene.

Vaughn demonstrated tremendous courage and bravery while subject­ing herself to serious bodily harm to help someone in need. She was willing to sacrifice her own life to save the life of another person. She demonstrated a high degree of excellence as a state employee and law enforcement officer, even while off-duty.

Vaughn says she wants to be remembered as a fighter, as someone who looks danger in the eye and keeps pushing, and as a person who never gives up. Ultimately, she wants to be a role model. Her supervisor, Lt. Jeffrey Scott, says she represents the best that North Carolina has to offer.

Watch the videos for all of the 2015 recipients