2017 Governor's Awards for Excellence Recipients

Recipients with Governor Cooper and Barbara Gibson

Congratulations to the 2017 Governor's Awards for Excellence Winners! The Office of State Human Resources received 115 nominations this year. 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 amazing things for the state and its citizens. Twelve state employees were selected, in six different categories. Click on a name below to read more about the good work of these amazing state employees.

Watch the videos for all the recipients!

Watch the Awards Ceremony

You can also read and share honorees' profiles through this digital magazine!

 

Noelle Ocon  
Natural and Cultural Resources/NC Musuem of Art  

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CUSTOMER SERVICE

Noelle Ocon serves as an admirable conservator of paintings, who preserves and protects the North Carolina Museum of Art’s (NCMA) collection for current and future generations. Her influence has gone well above and beyond enhancing the vision of the NCMA with her initiation of a project called Actual State.

Actual State is a project that created a singular and special experience for museum visitors throughout a 20-week time frame. This project served as much more than an exhibition; it was a temporary public conservation studio, in which Ocon conserved a painting from the NCMA’s permanent collection. She did this in a temporary public conservation studio, where visitors could see the painting restored.

The Pentecost, circa 1530, originally created by a follower of Bernard Orley, was restored in all its glory as Ocon retouched areas of damage. This restorative work is usually performed behind closed doors, but with Actual State, the visitors joined Ocon in her studio and conversed with her as she worked, learning about the painting, art conservation, materials, and care of collections.

Through the exhibition, Ocon stepped out of her comfort zone and allowed her work to be transparent in the public eye. She openly worked with chemists, aspiring artists, parents, children and everyone in between, patiently telling the story of The Pentecost to each audience.

Visitors to Actual State were entranced by Ocon’s work, and her contribution to the exhibition added value to the visitor experience. Ocon, through her work, embodies the vision that NCMA can “empower people through the power of art.” Her pursuits actively engaged the audience into not only the exhibition, but also her individual work. The project’s success required a unique set of skills, good humor and commitment. Ocon’s work on Actual State surpassed expectations of audience engagement in an exhibition and enhanced the vision of the North Carolina Museum of Art.

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John Woodlock 
Public Safety           

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EFFICIENCY & INNOVATION

John Woodlock is the Information Technology (IT) Manager within the Department of Public Safety. He constantly searches for better ways to enhance efficiency and help clients with their work using his innovative and fresh ideas. His influence expands outside of the office with a recent software tool he constructed for prisons.

Given the task of creating a Prisons Dashboard to help monitor facilities, Woodlock took on this project with very few specifications or guidelines to follow. After visiting multiple prisons, and interviewing many staff members, the task began. Woodlock took this project to a whole new level in a very short amount of time. He built an incredible tool, which includes graphs to help see trends and drill down on important details. The technology he designed allows for changes to be made easily and efficiently. Through his own ideas and insights, Woodlock built a tool that far exceeded expectations.

He worked extra hours in making this product a success for our prisons. Reactions to the prison dashboard from prison management have been outstanding. The tool not only gives you a picture of what is happening at a given facility, but it can also incorporate what is happening within a region or even at the statewide level. This new dashboard has even succeeded in increasing overall productivity for managers at all levels. Several other states have called and asked for further information on this tool in hopes of incorporating it into their own facilities.

The dashboard is regarded as a user-friendly tool that provides readily available data in critical areas of prison operation. It allows a manager to see everything from custody statistics, to medical and mental health care, to hiring/vacancy needs. At the regional level, a manager can view all 14 facilities at once, which allows the manager to gauge performance or address areas of concern without interrupting the administrators from their daily routine of managing a prison. Woodlock’s creation has been recognized by management as the most significant technological tool in this area of expertise in the last 15 years.

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Joe Bright
Public Safety            

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HUMAN RELATIONS

Sergeant Joe W. Bright, Jr. is with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. He has been an outstanding role model for hundreds of children, teens and young adults, both on and off the job. An assistant commandant for new recruits of the Highway Patrol’s basic school, Sgt. Bright also visits schools in the community and mentors children through his fraternity. Loved by his co- workers and respected by new Patrol recruits, Sgt. Bright strikes a balance between being a gentle giant while maintaining a tough and commanding authority in the eyes of new cadets. When each 29-week training session concludes, the cadets truly appreciate Bright’s guidance. They learn he is their advocate and one who takes great pride in their successes.

For the past nine years, Bright has been visiting Conn Elementary School students in Raleigh to talk about his job as a member of the State Highway Patrol and about what it takes to be successful in any career. He talks about citizenship as well as the importance of getting a good education. He has participated in the Junior Trooper Schools for young people interested in a military or law enforcement career. This is a week long camp sponsored by the American Legion. Sgt. Bright gives the high school students a taste of military training which includes morning exercise drills and lots of discipline.

Through his Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Bright mentors young men ages nine to 13. He has served as a panelist with dignitaries to educate people on how to have better relations with the law enforcement community, and he works with children on their perceptions of law enforcement. The Highway Patrol teaches “Verbal Judo”, which is a way of speaking to motorists in a nonconfrontational way. Sgt. Bright consistently shows great patience and empathy while still enforcing the law. He is devoted to giving tours to senior citizens, community college students, members of YMCA, ROTC and other groups. He participates in fundraising events for the Special Olympics, including the Torch Run and plane-pulling contest, where he helps pull a 30,000-pound airplane. Sgt. Bright goes out of his way to maintain the image of our State Highway Patrol through his outstanding involvement in so many meaningful activities.

Allan Buchanan
Prevention Specialist                          
Department of Insurance   

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OUTSTANDING GOVERNMENT SERVICE

Allan Buchanan is an Injury Prevention Specialist for the North Carolina Department of Insurance. He has contributed to the improvement of all child passenger safety trainings across North Carolina, the nation and abroad, by providing a variety of training and educational opportunities. His efforts help create awareness of the importance of child passenger safety and seat belt education in preventing car crash deaths and injuries. North Carolina has one of the strongest Child Passenger Safety programs in the country, in part due to the hard work, involvement and dedication of Allan Buchanan.

In 2017, Buchanan was awarded the National Child Passenger Safety Instructor of the year. He has taught 104 courses. No other trainer comes close to reaching those numbers. Safe Kids Worldwide recognized Buchanan’s outstanding reputation as an instructor and asked him to teach child passenger safety classes in United Arab Emirates in 2015. He conducted classes in Doha, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

In 2016, Buchanan earned the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Instructor of the Year. At the ceremony, a father who had taken Buchanan’s class spoke. The family was in a head-on collision on their way home from being released from the hospital with their newborn baby. This father shared that prior to taking this course, he had no idea the magnitude an improper child restraint could ultimately have. The course made a tremendous impact on how he and his wife transported their children. Thankfully, using what he learned in class, the father had double-checked his child’s seat and harness upon leaving the hospital. He remembered Buchanan sharing how fragile newborn babies are. All members of the family survived the crash and are healthy and happy today. Since 2005, Buchanan has reviewed 4,834 individual seat checks for technicians to be recertified. These numbers also far exceed other instructors’ records. Buchanan is committed to protecting children when they ride in motor vehicles, and he knows the more technicians he certifies, the better chance we have of educating parents and caregivers. Buchanan continues to be a true treasure to the citizens of North Carolina                                                                                                                                 

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Dr. Michelle Skipper
Program Director, Doctor of Nursing Practice                   
East Carolina University

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PUBLIC SERVICE

Dr. Skipper’s role as Program Director for the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) at East Carolina University is directly responsible to the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs for the College of Nursing. She has ties to the Lumberton area, and when Hurricane Matthew hit, Dr. Skipper was quick to respond.

Matthew produced unexpected and devastating flooding, but also produced heroes! One such hero is Michelle Skipper. When disaster struck, Dr. Skipper quickly became a beacon of hope in a rural area of North Carolina, Robeson County. She organized the local high school as a temporary shelter with town officials before the Red Cross or other state and local agencies could arrive. She provided basic first aid to over 500 individuals housed in the shelter for seven days. During those seven days, Dr. Skipper assisted with meal preparation for 1,500 meals every day, waking up early for meal preparation and staying up late to prepare for the next day. She was the point of contact for shelter residents who needed diabetic diets, as well as gluten-free, and vegetarian options, ensuring the special needs of the residents were met.

For homebound residents living in three public housing projects in the community, Dr. Skipper assisted with their daily meal deliveries and health assessments. Dr. Skipper also washed clothes and towels in her own home for shelter residents. For two weeks, she continued to open her home as a place for shelter volunteers to shower until the water was safe in Lumberton. Her selfless service and sacrifice helped save lives and provide safety, shelter, and support. She placed her personal safety in jeopardy as she delivered food and water to people in remote areas, going without sleep to ensure the shelter residents were fed and comfortable.

She is a true example of a hero—one who puts the needs of others before her own. It is not hard to imagine that Dr. Skipper displays these same qualities every day in her ongoing service to the state of North Carolina.

Even when dealing with the flood day in and day out, she managed to keep up with her responsibilities as the Program Director of one of the largest graduate nursing programs in the state. Dr. Skipper is an amazing example of a North Carolina hero!

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Larry D. Williams, Jr.
Civil Rights Investigator               
Office of Administrative Hearings    

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PUBLIC SERVICE

Larry Williams’ job, as a Civil Rights Investigator for the State of North Carolina, is to ensure that individuals are doing the “right thing,” by investigating charges of employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or charges alleging retaliation for opposition to such discrimination. However, Williams is not just committed to doing the right thing in his work environment, but also within his community and across our state. He is the founder and president of Restoring A Generation (R.A.G.). R.A.G. is a non-profit outreach ministry that aids thousands of individuals. The non-profit consists of five main areas: 1) Johnston County Men’s Fellowship, 2) Annual Summer Festival, 3) Jireh Fulfillment, 4) Youth Development and Enrichment and 5) Joint Pastoral Collaboration.

Williams’ passion, through the Men’s Fellowship area of R.A.G., is working with individuals in a basketball league. Basketball is the catalyst that draws the individuals in, but the focus is mentoring and development. In the second category, the youth development program works with male and female students between the ages of eight and seventeen years old, providing education awareness, running a dropout prevention program for the high schoolers, offering tutors for end of grade testing, coordinating health fairs and developing relationships within the sheriff and police departments to help decrease crime-related issues in the community.

The group’s Summer Festival goal is to bring the community together. Williams partners with churches, businesses and other non-profits to sponsor the festival. He also started the Jireh Fulfillment project. This portion of R.A.G. focuses on two outreach efforts. One project is to adopt families in the community to provide food, clothing and toys for Christmas. The other project is a collaboration with FatHeadz barbershop and others to provide school supplies, over 1,600 backpacks and free haircuts for kids.

The Youth Development and Enrichment Program is a partnership with Johnston County schools and the local recreation department. Williams and other volunteers work as the liaisons between the school and parents to address specific needs such as dental care. Williams’ passion for the mission of R.A.G. is deeply rooted in his conviction that he is on this earth to make a difference. We are proud of the work Williams does in the community and thankful to have Larry as a state government employee in North Carolina.

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Patrick L. Browne
Master Officer
Wildlife Resources Commission              

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SAFETY & HEROISM

On and off duty Patrick Browne serves and protects the state of North Carolina. As a Wildlife Law Enforcement Master Officer, Browne works to enforce the hunting, fishing, boating and trapping laws of North Carolina; however, his influence expands outside of his daily duties with his heroic and selfless character.

On April 16, 2017, Browne had been patrolling fishing activity along the beautiful Meherrin River in Northampton County. After completing his patrol of the area, he concluded his duties and headed home. On his way, Browne came across a two-car accident. Browne quickly noticed that one of the vehicles was on fire and had flames coming from the engine area. He acted quickly, as the first person on the scene of the accident, and immediately called on his radio for assistance from other wildlife officers nearby and from local first responders.

Browne approached the vehicle and heard a female say, “Help! I can’t move!” He found the female driver in the driver’s seat of one of the vehicles and crossed a swampy, three-foot-deep ditch to get to the accident victim inside of the vehicle. His position in the ditch put him below the level of the car, but Browne still attempted to get the female driver out of the wreckage. He managed to carry her away from the car and move her through the ditch, to a safe distance from the car. Browne’s quick thinking and heroic efforts came none too soon. As soon as he removed the victim from the care, flames swirled from the engine area and fully engulfed the vehicle.

Had Browne not acted quickly, the victim could have lost her life in the flames of the wreckage. It is the excellent training, experience and courageous efforts, like those made by Browne, that make the state of North Carolina proud of its employees.

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Bradley Garman
Maintenance Mechanic IV                    
Department of Public Safety

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Safety & Heroism

Brad Garman is a Maintenance Mechanic IV and is responsible for performing preventative and routine corrective maintenance tasks at New Hanover Correctional Center. Late on the evening of April 12, 2017, Garman was at home when he heard his doorbell ringing continuously. He ran to the door to see what was going on. When he opened the door, he found two young girls in a panic. They screamed that their mother was being attacked by their father and that they desperately needed to get her some help. Knowing he must take immediate action, Garman ran next door, where the girls lived. Upon entering the residence, he witnessed the mother lying on her back as the father was punching her head and face with closed fists.

Garman jumped in immediately and without hesitation stopped the assault. He restrained the father until local law enforcement officers arrived. Approximately 16 emergency vehicles arrived moments later. The mother was taken by emergency crews to the hospital. She was unconscious by the time Mr. Garman intervened. The father was arrested as a domestic abuse repeat offender. Garman was heroic in his effort to take immediate action which put his own life in danger. His kindness did not stop there. He and his wife agreed to care for the children until their mother became healthy enough and the situation was safe for her to care for them again.

Garman has always been an example of what the Department of Public Safety stands for. Although humble about his actions, he was certainly a guardian angel to this family on that fateful night. We are thankful to have Brad Garman as a state employee, and we appreciate all he does on and off the job to assist the citizens of North Carolina in whatever way he can.

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Cindi Blair Hamilton  
Division of Marine Fisheries           
Department of Environmental Quality

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Safety & Heroism

A hero is a person who is admired for great or brave acts. Their fine qualities are fiercely courageous. Cindi Hamilton displays outstanding courage and kindness as an employee. Hamilton serves as the Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries as well as an Administrative Assistant for the division’s Marine Patrol. Hamilton is being celebrated as a heroine with the self-sacrificing act of live organ donation to a fellow coworker.

A long-time, dedicated employee within the Marine Fisheries team had been living for many years with a rare kidney disease. The disease continued to progress and her health continued to decline. It became clear a kidney transplant would be necessary for survival. After learning of her coworkers declining health, Hamilton jumped into action by first researching and learning more about live donor testing. Then Hamilton decided to get tested as a potential match, and to her delight, she was! After undergoing all compatibility tests to ensure she was a correct match, Hamilton donated her kidney to her coworker on March 14, 2017. Within only a day, the recipient’s kidney function noticeably improved.

Hamilton’s distinguished accomplishment clearly went above and beyond normal job duties. Her sacrifice helped save and improve the quality of life of a coworker she had only known for a few years. This demonstration of love and commitment to another person serves as an amazing example of Hamilton’s outstanding character. The Division of Marine Fisheries, as well as the State of North Carolina, greatly appreciate her dedication to her job, and the devotion she has shown to her fellow employee. She is a valued and highly respected member of that team.

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Sgt. Charles Daniel Roper
North Carolina Army National Guard                  
Department of Public Safety

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SAFETY & HEROISM

Within minutes of a single-engine plane crash in Morganton, North Carolina, Army National Guard Sergeant Charles “Daniel” Roper pulled the pilot from the burning cockpit. Roper was on his way to pick up his children from school around 4:30 p.m. on February 6 when he saw a plane flying very low, almost at treetop level. He saw the plane crash and immediately put his truck into four-wheel drive, driving through ditches and farmland to get to the crash site. When Sgt. Roper pulled up to the plane, he saw it was on fire and many of the plane’s parts were in the trees; the propeller was in the field, and the pilot was still in the plane, motionless.

Roper rushed out of his vehicle and ran to the burning plane to find fire all around the pilot who was still strapped in with the same type of seat belt harness that the Guard uses. Roper reached in, pulled the quick release and removed the pilot from the plane, dragging the pilot as far as he could from the plane just in case it exploded. The injured pilot was obviously in great pain, and Roper told him to hang on. Others came to help him pull the pilot further from the burning wreckage and onto the back of a pickup truck. The pilot was safe, but Roper stayed to help the first responders. He manned the hose and helped get the fire under control. When EMS arrived on the scene, Roper left to pick up his children. This was even before local news crews made it to the crash site. Fortunately, the pilot made a full recovery.

Roper’s training as a member of the North Carolina National Guard and as a civilian first responder allowed him to respond quickly and decisively. His actions are the embodiment of Citizen-Soldiers living and serving in the communities they have sworn to protect. Despite being off-duty, Sgt. Roper went into action and saved this pilots life.

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Ronald Dean Roscoe 
License and Theft Inspector (DMV)                       
Department of Transportation

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SAFETY & HEROISM

Inspector Roscoe is an exemplary employee. He exhibits honorable character in his work, both inside and outside of the office, and he is never reluctant to get involved when needed. As the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) License and Theft Inspector, Roscoe serves our state by enforcing the rules and regulations that govern vehicle dealers, vehicle safety and emissions inspection stations, vehicle towing and storage facilities and vehicle repair businesses.

On Wednesday, September 14, 2016, Inspector Roscoe was on duty in the Goldsboro License and Theft Office and had to step out of the building. As Roscoe was returning to the office, he observed a woman run out of the driver’s license building toward him. She was in a state of panic and carrying a small child. The young boy was struggling and looked as if he was not breathing. Within moments, Roscoe determined the child was choking.

Without delay, Roscoe administered the Heimlich Maneuver on the distressed child. During this life-saving maneuver, a piece of hard candy dislodged from the little boy’s throat. It did not take long for the child to begin breathing again. Through his courageous deed and quick response, Roscoe prevented this child from sustaining permanent injury or even death.

With his instinctive response to help and immediate actions, Roscoe assisted this mother and her small, helpless child. He was in the right place at the right time, but more importantly, he had the training and felt empowered to use it. Inspector Roscoe serves our state as a leader and as an example of utilizing noble and selfless actions. His behavior under such pressure contributes to the excellence of the Department of Transportation and exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding state employee who is willing to step in and assist a citizen in need.

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Spc. Robert Eugene Shook, III
North Carolina Army National Guard      
Department of Public Safety

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SAFETY & HEROISM

North Carolina Army National Guard Specialist Robert Shook serves North Carolina as a combat engineer – actively putting others before himself each day on the job. Shook works to construct fighting positions, place and detonate explosives, conduct operations that include route clearance of obstacles and rivers, prepare and install firing systems and much more to ensure safety in our state.

In October of 2016, Shook put himself at immense personal risk to save the life of another citizen. Shook rushed to the rescue of a nurse who became trapped in flood waters from Hurricane Matthew. The nurse had not returned home from work during the storm and was reported missing. The North Carolina Emergency Management Central Branch was called to send a search and rescue team. Capt. Bert Henderson from the Wilson Fire Department, NC National Guard 2nd Lt. Wyatt Koch and Spc. Shook were part of a multi-agency rescue team that began to look for the missing nurse.

They drove down a flooded road outside of Wilson when they heard over the radio that another team could hear a cry for help. Spc. Shook cut the engine of the team’s Humvee which enabled them to follow the faint cries for help. Shook threw his rescue rope first, but it was carried away by the swift current. Koch threw next, further upstream, and the rope reached the stranded nurse. As they were pulling her in, she lost her grip on the rescue line and was drifting in the rushing water. Shook immediately jumped into the fast-moving floodwaters to save the nurse, but the current was too strong.

Shook began to tread water until a swift water rescue team arrived and pulled them safely into the boat. Shook then administered first aid. The nurse had been in the water for over four hours. Despite putting his own life in imminent danger, Spc. Robert Shook’s selfless and heroic actions to rush to the rescue of someone whose life was in danger, flawlessly exemplify the ideals of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Watch the videos of all the recipients!

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