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November 10, 2015


A Catawba County Emergency Medical Services staff member who noted disturbing trends in cardiac arrest cases, and addressed those concerns by creating a program to teach new “hands only CPR” techniques to as many citizens as possible, has been named Catawba County’s Employee of the Year for 2015.

Melanie Sigmon, the County’s EMS Quality Compliance Coordinator, received the honor at the County’s Annual Awards Night on November 10th at the Catawba Valley Community College Tarlton Complex. She has been employed with Catawba County EMS for fifteen years and has risen to increasingly more responsible positions throughout her tenure.

“Not many of us can say we had a hand in saving a life, let alone twelve total strangers in a single year, but Melanie Sigmon from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can,” said Jim Dickerson, an Administrative Assistant II with Catawba County EMS, who nominated Sigmon for the honor. “For more than a year, she has been working on a project to increase the number of lives saved in Catawba County from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) outside of a hospital. She designed and implemented a community outreach program to teach as many citizens as possible ‘Hands Only CPR’ after monitoring trends in cardiac arrest in her role as Quality Compliance Coordinator and applying them to her role in Community Outreach.”

Statistics from 2014 show that every day in the U.S. more than 1,000 people suffer non-traumatic sudden cardiac arrest outside hospitals, including 26 children, Dickerson said. Catawba County trends show an increasing number of younger people, including elementary and middle school aged children, experiencing SCA without any obvious illnesses. Time-to-treatment is critical when considering the chance of survival for an SCA victim. Ninety-five percent of SCA victims die because they do not receive life-saving CPR and defibrillation within four to six minutes. The average medical first response time in the county is 5.52 minutes.

“Melanie realized this meant that life saving actions would have to be implemented by lay persons to save a victim,” Dickerson added. “A ‘save’ is defined as leaving the hospital in as good a condition, or almost as good, as they were before they entered.”

Sigmon is a St. Stephens High School graduate. She earned an Associates Degree in Emergency Medical Service from Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) in 2001. She began working for Catawba County as an hourly EMT-Basic in September 2000. She became a full time EMT-Basic in 2001. She was named EMS Field Training Officer in 2006 and promoted to her current position of Quality Compliance Coordinator in June 2009.

Sigmon has also worked as an instructor at CVCC, as a Medical Assistant at Claremont Family Medicine and as an assistant at Bowman Drug Company. She lives in Claremont, North Carolina, with her husband, Scott Sigmon, and their two sons, Gabe and Wyatt.

“Melanie never says ‘no’ to anyone asking for a class or program,” Dickerson concluded. “She teaches nights, weekends, whenever the opportunity is there to speak to churches, scouts, schools, restaurant workers, businesses and citizens attending community events. During Fiscal Year 2014-15, Melanie taught 41 classes in ‘Hands Only CPR’ reaching 1,620 citizens including 758 adults and 862 kids (fourth grade and up). She recruited paramedics and paramedic students to teach additional classes to extend the reach of the project. During this same year, 12 ‘saves’ in the county were directly tied to the lay person that performed CPR having been trained in how to do it and how to call 9-1-1.”

Eight other Catawba County employees were nominated for Employee of the Year for 2015. They included: Joseph Edwards, TEEN UP Social Worker, Social Services; Amanda Freeland, Backpack Program Coordinator, Social Services; Amy McCauley, Community Outreach Manager, Public Health; Jennifer Owen, Protective Services Social Worker, Social Services; Beth Smith, Work First Human Services Coordinator, Social Services; David Smith, Building Services School Official, Utilities and Engineering; Christina Triplett, Social Work Supervisor III, Social Services; and Der Xiong, Immigrant Agricultural Program Coordinator, Cooperative Extension.

Another highlight of the night was the presentation of 2015 Team Awards. "These awards honor groups of employees whose combined efforts improve County services," said Catawba County Manager Tom Lundy, who served as Master of Ceremonies for the County's Awards Night. "We appreciate the value of work done by groups of employees who focus their energies on a common goal."

A panel of judges in the government field, all independent of Catawba County, selected three teams as winners for 2015:

Educators of Revaluation-Team Leader: Danny S. Clippard, Revaluation Manager; Team Members: Randy E. Triplett, Senior Real Estate Appraiser; Lori V. Wray, Senior Real Estate Appraiser; Jim P. Treffinger, Real Estate Appraiser; Sally M. Lackey, Real Estate Appraiser; John E. Shrell; Real Estate Appraiser; Georganna F. Stephens, Administrative Assistant I; and Gail L. Perry, Office Support Specialist, Tax Office.

The County Tax Office’s Revaluation Department conducts a countywide reappraisal every four years. After this process is completed, taxpayer appeals are conducted. The formal appeals presentation process is the main area in which improvement was needed. In previous years, a narrative approach was used to communicate how staff arrived at an assessed value. This year, the Revaluation Department sought to create a better way to show information to taxpayers so they would have a clearer understanding of the process. The improved presentation also enabled the Board of Equalization and Review (BOER), which hears formal appeals of new values by property owners, to make well informed decisions with more confidence. The team was able to collaborate to develop and design a transparent, detailed, visual approach to display to taxpayers as well as the BOER. After implementing this new method of presentation, staff noted that taxpayers seemed to have a better grasp on the process of assessment and even complimented the professionalism of the new presentation. This method had the same effect on the BOER as well.

“Through the talents and initiative of our team, we feel that we have done a much better job in serving and educating the taxpayers about the complex process of property appraisal,” Clippard said.

Kinship Support and Adoption-Team Leader: Linda B. Smith; Adoption Supervisor, Social Services; Team Members: Alicia M. Kester; Thomas E. Berg; Hendrix S. Boags; Mandy C. Rollans; and Annie D. Murphy, all Kinship Social Workers, Social Services.

The six-member kinship unit works closely with families caring for children related or well known to them who are in the child welfare system. Unlike licensed foster parents, kin historically go through the system alone. Kinship workers are the family’s advocate. Kinship workers team with their families from the beginning of child placement. The worker walks with the family through the legal system and works to help the family become licensed. Becoming licensed helps them better understand the children in their care and provides some financial offset. If a child cannot be reunified with a parent, these workers are instrumental in helping the family make a plan of guardianship or adoption for the child. Then they help the family make the transition and emotional adjustment to their new role, such as going from a grandmother to a parent. Children in kinship homes have more normalcy in their lives such as staying in their current school, church and extracurricular activities, and keeping friends and connections to other family. The families build a trusting bond with their social worker and more readily reach out to them when issues do arise so they can be addressed before a crisis.

Paint Recycling Program-Team Leader: Rodney Hamby, Landfill Superintendent, Utilities and Engineering Department; Team Members: Daniel Isenhour, Lead Landfill Operations Specialist; Dallas Sigmon, Landfill Operations Supervisor; Jeff Sigmon, Lead Landfill Operations Specialist; and Amanda Kain, Waste Reduction Coordinator/Educator, all with Utilities and Engineering.

Since 2000, oil and latex based paints have been one of the materials most often brought by citizens to special one-day residential Household Hazardous Waste Collection events,. To keep pace with the demand for paint recycling, County staff expanded recycling services in 2013 to include a permanent year-round paint collection site at the Blackburn Landfill located on Rocky Ford Road west of Newton. Paint is accepted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. This recycling service is free to residents of Catawba County.

Liquid paint contains chemicals such as solvents and metals that should never be poured down a drain or dumped on the ground. The County now provides a safe and effective means of disposal by offering this year-round recycling service. County staff operates and manages the collection site and recycling services are contracted with a hazardous waste vendor to properly dispose and recycle the collected paint.
Through all collection efforts, one-day events and permanent programs, the County has properly disposed of 848,768 pounds of paint! Thanks to the ingenuity of Landfill staff, proper disposal is now being performed more economically, saving approximately $0.12 per pound.

Employees were recognized during the evening for professional achievements and awards won on the state and national levels, including National Association of Counties Achievement Awards and honors from the International City/County Management Association; Local Government Federal Credit Union; Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation; Alliance for Innovation; Center for Digital Government; and other groups. Thirty-nine employees who have retired in the past year were saluted, along with County employees who have served for five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty and thirty-five years.

Six County employees who passed away in the last year were remembered: Gene Herman, (Utilities & Engineering; Kathy Johnson (Tax); Rama Mills (Social Services); Alan Pope (Communications Center); Darrell Rinehardt (Utilities & Engineering); and Joe Robinson (Tax).

"Our Employee Awards night is an important time to recognize the high quality of services delivered to our citizens,” Lundy said. “It is always a privilege for members of the Board of Commissioners and me to spend an evening recognizing many of our employees for outstanding work, and thanking each and every one for the part they play in helping make Catawba County a great place in which to live and work."