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May 8, 2007

Public Service Recognition Week

From: Federal Times - USA - May 8, 2007

A commitment to public service, a broad understanding of issues and an innovative approach to problem-solving are characteristics that define this year’s recipients of the National Public Service Awards and the Rosslyn S. Kleeman Keeper of the Flame Award.

The American Society for Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration established the National Public Service Awards in 1983 to honor individuals whose accomplishments are models of public service inside and outside the work environment. Three federal employees and one federal retiree are among this year’s winners. Here are their stories.

Peter Blumberg

Peter Blumberg’s job at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is to study the causes and treatment of cancer, inflammation and pain. But he gave himself another challenge — to open the world of his work to deaf scientists.

At large scientific lectures, Blumberg noticed there were no deaf students. He saw the opportunity for a partnership with Gallaudet University in Washington and began recruiting students and contacting faculty to let them know about opportunities at NCI and with his group. He is chief of molecular mechanism of tumor promotion in NCI’s Laboratory of Cancer, Biology and Genetics, on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md.

Six students and one professor have trained at NCI over the past two years, and Blumberg expects two new students in September.

“I saw the impact and the change in views of other scientists who recognized that these were good scientists,” Blumberg said.

The students come to NCI as part of the NIH post-baccalaureate program. The program is open to all students who have graduated from college in the sciences and wish to get a year or two of research before continuing their studies.

“In the tasks … that we do,” Blumberg said, “you have to be good at the work. Hearing is not an issue.”

That was one of the lessons from the program, he said. The deaf scientists now serve as role models for the deaf community and have continued their research and education, contributing to papers and working toward advanced degrees.

Blumberg taught himself sign language in order to better communicate with the deaf scientists.

“Learning the language went just fine,” he said. “Cancer is a very tough problem. If you’re not put off by working at a difficult task such as cancer, what is another language?”

Blumberg’s National Public Service Award also recognizes his groundbreaking cancer research.

“We’re actually making a difference,” Blumberg said. “We’re not there yet — but we’re making a difference.”

Blumberg, whose doctorate is in biochemistry and molecular biology, has worked at NCI since 1981. “I was thrilled to win the award,” Blumberg said. “One of the things I’ve liked is that I’m working for the American people — it’s inspiring to work for the American people.”

Barbara Dorf
Barbara Dorf is a change agent.

Director of the Office of Departmental Grants Management and Oversight at the Housing and Urban Development Department, she has retooled the ways grant applicants hear about funding opportunities, introduced a model to analyze applications and the programs they fund, and increased the involvement of grassroots nonprofit groups in community revitalization.

“Anytime you make a change, everything is ugly,” Dorf said, referring specifically to HUD’s Logic Model, introduced in 2003 to analyze grant applications. “Then by the second year, people said they could deal with it. In the third year, people said they loved it. And by the fourth year, [grant recipients] were asking why all the other agencies weren’t doing this.”

With Logic Model, Dorf said, “we put [our grants] out there with a common face. There are five factors for awards — five basic things that HUD looks at. So we created a model that incorporates these factors.”

The result has been a valuable tool in analyzing not only the applications, but the funded programs as well. The agency is getting better data because the process allows for the reporting of activities, output measures and outcomes. The grant recipients give HUD their projections and then report against those projections, and the outcome is a data model. It’s better reporting and better data, Dorf said.

HUD’s Logic Model is serving as a paradigm for other agencies.

And it is just one of the efforts cited in Dorf’s selection for the National Public Service Award.

In 1981, Dorf changed the way HUD provided funds to redevelop the South Bronx by increasing the participation of grassroots, community-based nonprofit organizations.

The HUD group assessed the project and noticed there were a lot of community groups instigating change in the area without federal funds. Deciding to work within the community, HUD funded five groups.

“There was a huge turnaround,” Dorf said. “The neighborhood was thriving. I think it really makes a difference when people work for themselves. The community, aided by federal funds, was building upon what was there, instead of having government being imposed upon them.”

Dorf also is the co-author of a book, “Business and the Entreprenerial American City.”

“I am always listening to things that are coming up on the horizon. When we wrote the book, we were looking at ways to create public-private partnerships. These partnerships make good sense. We tried to put forth what other cities were doing — running a city like a business from a business and social point of view — and to provide examples that helps people affect change.”

Dorf also was responsible for implementing HUD’s SuperNOFA, in which the majority of HUD’s competitive programs are announced in a single notice of funding availability, as well as for working through to provide access to applications for HUD’s competitively distributed funds.

Speaking about the committee to create, Dorf said, “I did it to preserve HUD’s interest. If you’re not at the table, then you have to just live with the outcome.”

When was first conceived, every agency was building its own site. Now, what has emerged is access to public funds on a common platform.

“My whole career, people have turned to me for new ideas and different approaches to problems,” Dorf said. “HUD has given me a lot of breadth. It has always fostered innovation and creativity.”

James Hartwell Jr.

James Hartwell Jr.’s work doesn’t end with his job as a program manager at the Air Force’s Test and Evaluation Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

As a member of the City Council of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Hartwell has been behind programs to purchase properties in high-crime areas and convert them into affordable housing. This project has not only changed the lives of people who now live in the housing, but it’s also transformed the neighborhoods into safer communities.

Hartwell also led initiatives to protect children from sexual predators on the Internet by drafting strict control measures for libraries. These went to the Florida governor for statewide implementation.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the Mississippi Delta, Hartwell, his wife and two of their sons went to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to help with rebuilding efforts.

“That had nothing to do with work,” said Hartwell, winner of a National Public Service Award. “You pay a price to live in a place like this, on the Gulf Coast. One of these days, it might be me that needs some help.”

A retired Air Force major, Hartwell, during his military service, helped transform systems development in the Aerospace Defense Command and Pacific Command.

Over the years, Hartwell has managed highly technical programs. Today he is the lead test manager on homeland defense programs valued at $100 million and test director of classified programs valued at more than $1 billion. He applies his military-rated aviator experience to the planning, execution and reporting of assigned air and space operations, center test programs and homeland defense initiatives.

Proud of his Native American heritage, Hartwell is a member of the Northwest Florida Inter-Tribal Council and Honor Guard; for 14 years, he has helped organize and direct the world’s largest annual military-sponsored powwow.

“This is an educational opportunity,” he said. “The month of November is Native American month. We go into the schools to share our experiences, but we also invite the schools to the community.”

Hartwell has served as a Boy Scout scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster. The Boy Scouts of America awarded him its Honor Medal for risking his life by dragging three trapped victims from an auto accident just before the car burst into flames.

Harriett Jenkins

The Rosslyn S. Kleeman Keeper of the Flame award is given to public servants who continue to serve after their official retirement. This year’s federal recipient is Harriett Jenkins, who retired from the Senate Office of Fair Employment Practices in 1996.

In 1998, she was appointed by the county executive as the volunteer commissioner of the Montgomery County, Md., Human Rights Commission, implementing nondiscrimination policies. During her six years as volunteer commissioner, she also was a representative on the county’s Committee on Hate Violence.

From 2000 to 2003, she worked with county residents to create the Conflict Resolution Center. Jenkins served on the board of directors for the center, which provided conflict resolution such as mediation, facilitation, teaching, training and technical support to county residents.

From 2001 to 2004, Jenkins worked as an equal opportunity consultant for Takoma Park, Md..

“This was a difficult time for the city of Takoma Park. There had been allegations by black and Hispanic police officers alleging discrimination and a resolution agreement had been written that outlined ways to address these issues.”

For three years, Jenkins served as a consultant, helping the city implement the requirements of the resolution agreement.

Jenkins has worked in public service her entire professional life. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in mathematics, she began working in the Berkeley, Calif., public school system and worked her way up from teacher to assistant superintendent for instruction. During that time, she completed a master’s degree and doctorate in education from University of California at Berkeley.

For the next 18 years, Jenkins worked as an assistant administrator for equal opportunity programs at NASA. From 1992 until her retirement, Jenkins worked as the Senate’s first director of the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices.

Jenkins is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

“Here I am invited to be active. I have served on numerous committees, presidential searches and public service panels,” Jenkins said. “I am able to contribute — to look at issues and help solve problems.”

“I was very honored to have received this award. All the recipients going back to the Rosslyn S. Kleeman [for whom the award is named] are quite renowned. I think of these past award recipients and feel honored to have received the award.”


© 2008 Federal Times