Scottsdale honors employees for performance, commitment to community

Assisting a neighborhood in crisis. Rescuing a young woman ensnared by the sex trade. Supporting our community through a calendar full of volunteer efforts.

Those are just some of the actions over the past year by Scottsdale employees honored this week for their outstanding work performance and commitment to the Scottsdale community.

In all, more than 40 employees were honored at Scottsdale’s annual Employee Awards Program. The winners were among 342 employees nominated in various categories, according to a press release.

Here’s a summary of those honored and their contributions:


Nicole Patterson, left, and Laura Sodeman (submitted photo)

Nicole Patterson, left, and Laura Sodeman (submitted photo)

Learn and Grow Continuously: Police Detention Training Team

Detention officers Nicole Patterson and Laura Sodeman revamped the entire training manual for detention officers and developed a four-phase training program with 15 different lesson plans. The new training was delivered to all staff and supervisors in the unit, and it is now the standard for newly hired detention officers.

Focus on Quality Customer Service: Michelle Cunningham and Brie Regan, police communication dispatchers

Ms. Cunningham received a 911 call earlier this year from 12-year-old Alex, who was hiding in a closet as two robbers went through the house stealing valuables. They even broke open Alex’s piggy bank. Ms. Cunningham helped him stay calm while Brie Regan handled the quick response of officers who arrived on scene just as the intruders discovered Alex’s hiding spot.

The robbers were eventually apprehended, and Alex was safely reunited with his family. But the story doesn’t end there. Michelle and Brie, along with many other police employees bought a new piggy bank, decorated it and filled it with more than $300 from their own pockets.

When Alex and his family toured the Police Communications Center a week later, they were surprised with this thoughtful gift from the people who helped them through such a traumatic event.

(submitted photo)

(submitted photo)

Collaborate as a Team: Covering the Bases – Back to School 2015 Team

This group worked together and with more than a dozen partner agencies in the community to provide clothing, supplies and health checks to more than 800 Scottsdale students so they could go back to school ready to learn.

Thanks to a broad community partnership, this was one of the largest and most successful back-to-school events in the city’s history, and the group is already working on next year’s event so that even more children can participate.

Winning team members are: Eugenio Munoz-Villafane, Stephen Ballan, Greg Bestgen, Angela Bravo-Gallagher, Julius Bryant, Jeff Cesaretti, Eduardo Durazo, Terry Erickson, Daniel Gallegos Jr., Noemi Garcia, Raymond Gomez, Thomas Gordon, Lina Jones, Cristina Lagunas, Jenny Mendoza, Dan Miller, Bill Murphy, Michael O’Donnell, Rosa Pinedo, Carlo Rascon and Danielle Romero.

Donaldson Award: Human Services Director Greg Bestgen

After assuming his position as director of Human Services this year, Mr. Bestgen was immediately faced with a crisis. Residents at the Wheel Inn Ranch were facing eviction when their long-term rental trailer park converted to a seasonal RV park.

Many of the residents are elderly and live on limited incomes – their options for new living arrangements are limited. Mr. Bestgen, a city employee since 1993, organized his department to provide the maximum benefits available for residents in crisis. They brought in a wide array of other agencies to meet with residents and provide assistance, including Veterans Affairs, HonorHealth and the Arizona Housing Alliance.

Mr. Bestgen and his staff didn’t just organize meetings; they provided transportation for people to get there and meals for those who needed them. Mr. Bestgen and his team continue to follow-through with the residents of the Wheel Inn Ranch to make sure they are getting the help that they need, all while serving thousands of other human services clients across Scottsdale.

Drinkwater Award: Court Services Representative Sandra Westcott

Since coming to the Scottsdale City Court in 2002, Ms. Westcott has worked tirelessly on the city’s Diversity Advisory Committee and also supported the local arts community as a volunteer for the Scottsdale Cultural Council, the release stated.

Ms. Westcott has been a key person planning and hosting a variety of diversity events for the community and city employees. In 2015, she was involved in the Juneteenth celebration, the Martin Luther King Jr. dinner, Hispanic Heritage month and the Regional Unity Walk.

As a Scottsdale Cultural Council volunteer, she supports the Culinary Festival, the Festival of the Arts and the Discovery Series.

The Drinkwater Award is named in honor of the former mayor who served four terms and became one of the most popular elected officials in the state. Drinkwater retired in 1996 and passed away a year later. The award, now in its 18th year, goes to an employee or group of employees who set an outstanding example through their volunteerism and dedication to serving others.

lan and Innovate for the Future: Mussel Mitigation Team awarded for solving a problem of Quagga and Zebra mussels detected in Lake Mead (submitted photo)

lan and Innovate for the Future: Mussel Mitigation Team awarded for solving a problem of Quagga and Zebra mussels detected in Lake Mead (submitted photo)

Plan and Innovate for the Future: Mussel Mitigation Team

In the early 2000s, Quagga and Zebra mussels were detected in Lake Mead, and they had since spread into the Central Arizona Project canal system which provides 80 percent of Scottsdale’s drinking water.

These tiny creatures can cause big problems for pumps and pipes, the release stated. This team evaluated various solutions, and then it developed its own system to gauge the effectiveness of different treatments. The team even customized its own aquatic observation tanks – like a really tiny Sea World! The team ultimately determined a technique that looks like it will mitigate this problem.

They did so without relying on costly consultants or outside contractors. Winning team members are Derek Baker, Levi Dillon, Roger Dunkel, Joe Hernandez, Douglas Magee and Michael Maloich.

Kelsey Cohen, winner of the People's Choice Award (submitted photo)

Kelsey Cohen, winner of the People’s Choice Award (submitted photo)

The People’s Choice Award: Police Aide Kelsey Cohen

Ms. Cohen was working with the police criminal intelligence unit investigating a case of juvenile prostitution. She happened upon a young woman whose story is about as sad as it gets – addicted to heroin and unable to escape the sex trade – the young woman needed help.

Ms. Cohen went the extra mile to find family members out of state and arranged to reunite the woman with her family. The first time, it didn’t work. The woman – named Victoria — was arrested again.

So Ms. Cohen helped again. This time, she successfully reconnected Victoria with her family, who took her out of her terrible situation. Victoria has stayed in touch, and seems to have truly turned her life around. The police staff who nominated Ms. Cohen for this award believes firmly that Kelsey’s dedication to helping this young woman saved her life.

Show Caring and Compassion for Others: Code Inspector Michelle Holmes

While on the job, Ms. Holmes and her coworkers noticed that some people were simply unable to comply with city codes due to physical or financial constraints. They created the Code Cares program: code officers volunteering during their off hours to help citizens who were unable to maintain their property.

Ms. Holmes helped take that program to another next level, and Operation Fix It was born. This volunteer-driven program helps people keep their properties up to code and looking great.

In 2014, Operation Fix It put more than 800 volunteers to work, fixing up 126 properties. Financially, the program survives entirely on donations from the local business community and other organizations. The program is more than fixing up homes – it reconnects people to their neighbors and to the community – with long lasting positive effects.

Thanks to You: Maintenance Worker Nick Hanes was awarded for helping two Scottsdale residents (submitted photo)

Thanks to You: Maintenance Worker Nick Hanes was awarded for helping two Scottsdale residents (submitted photo)

Thanks to You: Maintenance Worker Nick Hanes

This spring, a 70-year-old resident and her husband were enjoying the outdoors in the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt.

The woman was riding her recumbent bicycle, and her husband was roller blading not far behind. She was enjoying the day when a park maintenance cart approached her from behind. It was Maintenance Worker Hanes, and he informed her that her husband had fallen and was injured.

Ms. Hanes then loaded her and her bicycle in his cart and drove back to her husband, who was still a little shaken by the fall. Fortunately after a trip to the emergency room, some tests and a few stitches, he headed home with only a mild concussion.

The resident wrote: “Your employee, Nick, was so kind and helpful I really don’t have enough words to express our gratitude. We live only one block from Eldorado Park. We have used the parks and rec areas for many years and plan on continuing. Thank you for your hard work and especially for your staff.”

Listen, Communicate, Take Action: The Scottsdale Pickleball Team

When a passionate citizens group asked the city to provide public pickleball courts, this staff team of Denise Clayton, Tom Harrison, Chet Obidzinski, Andy Passmonick and Kira Peters figured out a way to build them quickly within the existing budget. The city converted two tennis courts at Cholla Park to eight pickle ball courts to the appreciation of the local pickleball community.

Be Accountable and Act with Integrity: Maintenance Technician Mike Rogerson

Mr. Rogerson is a member of the Take Pride Committee – a group formed by employees at the city’s North Corporation Yard who work to improve public facilities. Mr. Rogerson personally identified potential safety issues and volunteered his time to fix them. He designed and built two hydration stations, new safer steel fabrication material racks and an after-hours emergency material storage area.

Respect the Individual: Police Officer Ada Lea

Officer Lea took responsibility to help reconnect a neighborhood that has historically suffered from high crime rates, where people felt isolated from each other and from city services. She arranged several neighborhood meetings, and she has built strong relationships with the Neighborhood Watch captains in this area.

Nominees for the Volunteer Impact Award (submitted photo)

Nominees for the Volunteer Impact Award (submitted photo)

Volunteer Impact Award: Anthony Adams

The new Volunteer Impact Award recognizes and celebrates one volunteer among the 4,000 who donate their time and expertise to the city of Scottsdale.

Every Wednesday you’ll find Mr. Adams at the Granite Reef Senior Center teaching Movement Therapy, which helps seniors improve their balance, strength and flexibility while learning the importance of meditation.

Mr. Adams also hosts monthly wellness lectures, teaches healthy cooking and assists with meal preparation and cleanup. Not only does Mr. Adams provide great service in Scottsdale, he also works to improve the lives of veterans who suffer from PTSD and trauma.

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