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October 29, 2013


Catawba County Employee Of The Year, Jeff SigmonIn partnership with Appalachian State University (ASU), Catawba County operates a 7381 square foot center for biodiesel research, development and production. ASU’s research includes the testing of biodiesel fuel being produced by several companies in the region and from the harvest of crops growing around the Blackburn Landfill to test which ones grow best in the local climate while producing the best oils for biodiesel. Over time, the County expects to save money on its fuel costs by using the biodiesel fuels produced.

The Biodiesel Research Facility is more than just work with crops to produce fuel. It’s also a story of the people involved. A Catawba County employee who is credited with eagerly adding work at the Facility to his many other duties, and with increasing the acreage of crops being produced, has been honored as the County’s Employee Of The Year for 2013.

Jeff Sigmon, a Certified Landfill Operator with Catawba County’s Department of Utilities and Engineering, was recognized at the County’s annual Awards Night dinner on October 29th at the CVCC Tarlton Center.

“Jeff Sigmon diligently works above and beyond the expectations of the Utilities and Engineering Department. His dedication to the overall success of the Solid Waste Program and his commitment to service for the Utilities and Engineering Department as well as Catawba County has been exemplary,” said Cindy Meadows, Business Manager I with the Department of Utilities and Engineering, who nominated Sigmon for the award on behalf of the entire department. “When he was asked to take on new responsibilities, in addition to his existing job duties, to include Biodiesel and Crop Processing Facilities and crop maintenance, he never hesitated and was eager to learn and expand his knowledge. Working with ASU staff and area farmers, he has learned operating requirements and processes to provide the County with the expertise needed for operations of the Biodiesel and Crop Processing Facilities. Jeff was intricately involved in the start-up of the Crop Processing Facility and processed the first 1,000 gallons of oil from the spring canola crop. Oil is then converted through a process to biodiesel fuel and used for research and in landfill equipment. He has been instrumental in keeping the facility operational on a constant basis and works diligently to find an outlet for seed meal, a by-product, which creates revenue for the County.”

“With Jeff’s assistance, crop production acres have expanded from 50 to 85 during the past year and there are plans to expand further before the end of the fall planting season,” said Barry Edwards, Catawba County’s Director of Utilities and Engineering. “Having acquired the expertise for the operations of the Biodiesel and Crop Processing Facilities, Jeff has been able to assist with educational tours, taking on a leadership role in conducting tours and providing a real hands-on perspective.”

A native of Maiden, Sigmon has worked for Catawba County since July 26, 1999, when he was hired as a Grounds Maintenance Worker at the Blackburn Landfill. He was promoted to the position of Heavy Equipment Operator in October 1999 and that position was re-classified to Certified Landfill Operations Specialist in 2000. He has also served as a member of the County’s Safety Committee.

Sigmon is a graduate of Maiden High School. Prior to his work with Catawba County, he worked with Sigmon Dairy Inc., of Newton for more than twenty years. He and his wife, Robin, have four daughters, a son and five grandchildren. He recently retired as Chief of the Maiden Rescue Squad after thirty years of service to the squad. In his time away from work, Jeff enjoys metal detecting and camping.

“Jeff’s expertise is apparent to those he is able to interact with during the tour of the Biodiesel Research Facility,” Meadows said in her nomination. “The department has received many compliments from
individuals about how knowledgeable he is about what he is doing. Jeff does a great job and his supervisors can depend on him for crop planting, maintenance and harvesting, having the confidence that Jeff has the job knowledge, skills and abilities the County needs.”

Nine other Catawba County employees were nominated for Employee Of The Year for 2013. They included: Brian Arndt, Shift Supervisor, Sheriff’s Office; Heather Ball, Business Manager I, Social Services; Nate Baumgarner, EMT Paramedic, Emergency Services; Julie Byrd, WIC Director, Public Health; Amy McCauley, Community Outreach Manager, Public Health; Regina Reitzel, Reference Librarian, Library; Georganna Stephens, Administrative Assistant I, Tax; Heather Weaver, Income Maintenance Caseworker, Social Services; and Avajean Wickes, Executive Assistant, County Manager’s Office.

Another highlight of the night was the presentation of 2013 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 2013:

Catawba Rosenwald Day Treatment Program, Social Services: Team Leader: Denise Linton, Day Treatment Site Director, Social Services/Family NET. Members: Amy Mann, Licensed Clinician, Social Services/Family NET; Giai Tran, Qualified Professional, Social Services/Family NET; ShaVodka Nowacki, Qualified Professional, Social Services/Family NET.

This team addressed a major challenge to providing effective treatment for adolescents in any treatment setting, which is engaging the family system in the treatment. Team Leader Denise Linton created minimum guidelines wherein staff was encouraged to make in-person and/or telephone contact with consumer’s parents and/or guardians at least twice a month. This contact log has been used for about nine months and contacts are averaging 3-4 per month for 100% of the consumers. The team organized and implemented two “Family Fun Nights” in the past year. These special programs consisted of the day treatment staff preparing and serving dinner to consumers and their families. Staff also organized a number of activities and prizes. In the February 2013 event, about 40% of consumers and families participated. In the May 2013 event, about 80% of the consumers and families participated, a 35% increase in participation in a three month period.

Public Health Farmers Market Team, Public Health: Team Leaders: Amy McCauley, Community Outreach Manager, Public Health; Kelsey Johnston, Community Health Analyst, Public Health; Tracey Paul, Health Promotion Coordinator, Public Health; Julie Byrd, WIC Director, Public Health. Members: Candy Aviles, WIC Peer Counselor, Public Health; Lanae Ball, North Carolina WIC program; Chelsea Belton, volunteer; Shannon Bowers, Administrative Assistant II, Public Health; Cindi Bowman, Quality Compliance Coordinator, Public Health; Leslie Campbell, Administrative Assistant II, Public Health; Lori Chastain, Social Worker II, Public Health; Maneka Clark, Accounting Specialist I, Public Health; Carleen Crawford, CTG Project; Brittney DeMuth, volunteer; Susan Dickie, volunteer; Phil DiCasolo, Eat Smart Move More volunteer; Sharyn Guthrie, Dietetic Technician, Public Health; Elizabeth Howard, Interpreter, Public Health; Kelly Isenhour, Assistant Public Health Director, Public Health; Marilyn Klinger, Administrative Assistant II, Public Health; Jennifer Lindsay, Charge Nurse II, Public Health; Dana Lynch, Charge Nurse II, Public Health; Jennifer McCracken, Health Services Manager, Public Health; Laura McPherson, WIC Peer Counselor, Public Health; Bernice Saine, Administrative Assistant II, Public Health; Kelly Schermerhorn, Public Information Officer, Public Health; Rhonda Stikeleather, Public Health Nursing Supervisor, Public Health; Angie Teague, Accounting Specialist III, Public Health; Sandra Teague, WIC Program Assistant, Public Health; LeeAnn Ward, WIC Program Assistant, Public Health; Avajean Wickes, Executive Assistant, County Manager’s Office; Debra Young, Administrative Assistant II, Public Health; Karina Zamora, WIC Program Assistant, Public Health.

The Catawba County Public Health Farmers Market launched in May 2013 in partnership with Public Health, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, and Catawba County Health Partners’ Eat Smart Move More Catawba County coalition. When the market was ready to open, more than 30 staff members volunteered their time to assist with market management, set-up, tear-down and promotion throughout the summer. The goal of the market is to improve community health through greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables and increased redemption of WIC farmers market vouchers. With 250 to 300 customers and six to nine farmers weekly, the Public Health Farmers Market team has become a popular place for people who live, work, or visit the county’s Human Services corridor. And with WIC farmers market redemption rates already over 36% for this market alone, the Public Health Farmers Market is off to a great start! “Sometimes creating a healthy environment really does take a village”, the team reported.

Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy Team, Social Services: Team Leader, Janine Szymanski, Clinical Director, Family NET of Catawba County. Members: Elizabeth Lane, Outpatient Therapist II, Family NET; Tiffany Parlier, Outpatient Therapist II, Family NET; Carrie Ross, Outpatient Therapist II, Family NET; Erin Steele, Outpatient Therapist II, Family NET; and Dawn Wilson, Social Work Program Manager, Social Services.

A team of clinicians, the Clinical Director at Family NET (which provides mental health and behavioral health services to children and adolescents), and a senior leader at Social Services participated in and completed Learning Collaborative in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This therapy is an evidenced-based treatment model that helps children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events (physical abuse, sexual abuse, community violence, domestic violence, natural disasters and chronic neglect) heal from their trauma. Team members committed to a year-long process of intensive training and coaching with a focus on fidelity to the model and received guidance and support to assure their ability to sustain the practice. This commitment will assure that children and adolescents who have experienced neglect, physical abuse and/or sexual abuse can receive appropriate treatment to heal from their trauma.

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 North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Local Government Federal Credit Union Excellence in Innovation awards. Twenty-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, thirty-five and forty years.

Nine County employees who passed away in the last year were remembered: Donnell Arndt (retired from Social Services); Linda Church (retired from Sheriff’s Office); Gray Hawks (retired from Emergency Services); John Howard (retired from Sheriff’s Office); Hansel McNeil (retired from Social Services); Ed Melvin (retired from Social Services); Loy Sigmon, Jr. (retired from Social Services); Tinnette Travis (retired from Social Services) and Kim Vines (former employee with Social Services).

"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."