Town of Hillsborough: Customer Service, Innovation, and Endurance Awards Program

Posted on November 15, 2019

Town of Hillsborough

Lt. Andy Simmons, Police Officer 1st Class Jason Dimitri, Senior Cpl. Scott Foster and Safety and Risk Manager David Moore were among those employees who received a Silver Innovation Award for coming up with ideas and acting on them to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, or responsiveness of a town service.

This guest blog is brought to you by one of our finalists for the 2019 Meagle Award, The Town of Hillsborough, NC! The Meagle Award recognizes the best places to work in local government.

Each year, the Town of Hillsborough recognizes employees for exceptional contributions, ideas, and efforts that have resulted in superior service being provided to citizens. These employees make outstanding contributions and ongoing improvement a part of the town’s work culture. The awards program was implemented 10 years ago to highlight and reward the ideas and actions of employees that go beyond the expectations of their jobs.

There are four different categories of awards for which an employee can be recognized – innovation, customer service, endurance and innovator of distinction. The description of each award is included in the “Awards Guidelines” attachment. Any employee or citizen can nominate employees for one or multiple awards. More than one employee can be recognized for each category.

There are four different levels that employees can receive within each award category:

  1. Honorable mention receives $50 and a certificate
  2. Bronze receives $100 and trophy
  3. Silver receives $250 and trophy
  4. Gold receives $500, trophy and one day of vacation leave

A review committee, consisting of three to four staff members, an elected official, and a citizen, considers each nomination, selects award recipients and places them in the award categories and levels listed above. These awards are presented to employees at a board of commissioners meeting that employees’ family and friends are encouraged to attend. The names of employees who receive an award are engraved on perpetual plaques in the board meeting room.

Here are a few examples of awards that were given to employees in 2018:

Police Officer Michael Toellen received the customer service gold with distinction award. He was awarded for going above and beyond what’s expected of employees and showing genuine care for the community and people he serves. Toellen pulled an unconscious man from a burning vehicle, saving his life. His actions generated a significant amount of positive feedback toward the Police Department which goes a long way to helping the agency maintain public trust and confidence. His actions set an example for other officers. Time and again he demonstrates the town’s strategic objective of “serve the community.”

When a sidewalk contractor discovered an unrecorded and unmapped stormwater pipe, the town’s utilities staff was able to use a camera to inspect the pipe, locate junction boxes and save the town the time and expense of hiring a subcontractor for the camera work. Stormwater system mapping does not usually fall under the responsibilities of the Utilities Department, but in this case, utilities staff used their department’s equipment to quickly investigate and share important information with the project contractor and assist another town department. The expertise offered by the utilities staff was instrumental in keeping the piping operations component of the sidewalk project on schedule. Two utilities employees, Utility Mechanic Thomas Smith and Utility Maintenance Technician Bryant Bailey were awarded the customer service bronze award for their efforts.

The town’s Safety and Risk Manager, David Moore, was awarded a silver innovation award for taking the initiative to work with the town Safety Committee to apply for Carolina Star recognition through the NC Department of Labor. His innovation and drive paid off, and the town was awarded the Carolina Star! The Public Sector Star Program is designed to recognize state agencies and local governments for their leadership and success in providing a safe and healthy work environment. The recognition program manager noted “it is quite obvious that your site makes safety and health practices a vital part of your [organization’s] operations.” At the time, only 23 state agencies and local governments, including Hillsborough, had been recognized with the public sector star. Hillsborough was one of only four for which the entire organization was included.

Each of the following employees were awarded the gold endurance award: Water Plant Superintendent Howard Hobson, Utility Maintenance Supervisor Al Robertson, Utilities Inspector Nathan Cates, Utility System Supervisor Joel Lashley, Wastewater Plant Superintendent Jeff Mahagan and Utilities Analyst Julie Laws. The top two management positions in the Utilities Department were vacant at the same time, and this team was quickly placed in difficult situations. Several key projects were underway, such as the reservoir expansion, and they had to go through the entire budget season taking on tasks that were new to most of them. They all assumed new and additional responsibilities. There was understandably much concern from their fellow employees about how operations were going to work. During this time, they all became “go to” people and had “can do” attitudes throughout the nearly one-year period before the director position was filled.

Many employees are nominated each year in every category. This program is a great way to recognize and reward employees who play a part in maintaining a positive work culture.

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