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DCNR Recognizes Employees Going Above and Beyond to Support Agency Mission

July 11, 2018 03:15 PM

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This year, DCNR employees once again have gone above and beyond to further the goals of the agency. They were rewarded by being recognized by their peers and supervisors for efforts, including:

  • Accomplishing critical daily duties
  • Taking the lead in emergency situations
  • Assisting with criminal investigations
  • Coordinating educational programming to better connect the public with nature
  • Launching online tools to support DCNR partners, grantees, and the public

“The annual DCNR employee recognition awards shed light on recent important efforts coming from our agency, and highlight the individuals and teams driving this great work,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Our employees are enthusiastic, professional, and passionate, and I’m proud to lead such a strong, forward-thinking team.”

More than 40 employees received 18 awards personally by Dunn at the 2018 awards ceremony in the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg. Dunn was joined by Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry, John Norbeck, Deputy Secretary for Conservation and Technical Services, Lauren Imgrund, and Deputy Secretary for Administration, Michael Walsh.

Employees recognized were nominated by their superiors and selected by a screening committee of coworkers. The information listed below about each honoree was provided by the nominating DCNR employee and was shared by Walsh at the awards ceremony.

Award categories and honorees were:

DCNR Award for Outstanding Achievement

The highest level of recognition, this award is presented to those who have accomplished an unusually difficult undertaking that furthered the objectives of DCNR’s core mission.

Honored were:

Steven Shaffer, Forest District #3, Tuscarora State Forest

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund; Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Steven Shaffer, Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Deputy Secretary Michael Walsh

In spring 2017, Tuscarora State Forest Ranger Steve Shaffer was contacted by multiple fishermen using state forest regarding areas where large openings had been created by cutting trees. In the process of investigating the illegal felling of the trees, some of which were more than 100 years old, encompassing two acres of state forest, it became apparent this was not an ordinary timber theft or illegal fire wood cutting scenario.

Shaffer followed through on a case that resulted in the largest marijuana bust in the history of the state forest system. More than 900 plants were seized, and in addition, he solved a crime that also involved the clearing of almost three acres of state forest and the destruction and waste of more than $5000 worth of trees and timber.

Shea Zwerver, Bureau of Forestry, Rural and Community Forestry Section

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Shea Zwerver; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Shea Zwerver went above and beyond to creating and implementing a pilot program that trained prisoners at Rockview Correctional Facility in the basics of arboriculture. This was a monumental endeavor to coordinate with the Department of Corrections, staff at Rockview Prison, the International Society of Arboriculture, and the experts needed to teach the subject matter.

The program that Zwerver coordinated helps meet objectives set in the governor’s Green Ribbon Task Force related to efforts to recruit more people into outdoor professions, which is also a goal of the arboricultural industry. It also works to reduce recidivism by teaching marketable skills to inmates.

DCNR Award for Employee Excellence

The DCNR Award for Employee Excellence recognizes the sustained exemplary efforts of an employee whose work is of significant importance in advancing the Department's success. The nominee shows initiative and the ability to overcome unusual problems and added responsibilities to complete the task while maintaining a level of performance excellence.

Honored were:

Sarah Chapel, Park Region #4 Office

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Sarah Chapel; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Sarah Chapel is a leader among state parks staff and has taken on an increased workload in the last year. While keeping up during times of staff shortages, she also has been the sole field representative to assist with developing and troubleshooting the Bureau of State Parks upgraded budget program. Even with all of these duties, Chapel maintains the same high level of production and customer service.

Tyler Semder, Division of Recreation and Conservation Partnerships

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund; Tyler Semder; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Tyler Semder develops creative solutions to project management challenges, has taken on increased workload and yet is committed to delivering training and other day-to-day support to his coworkers. His efforts and the superior results have promoted staff efficiency and improved customer service. He developed the Grant Project Webinar Series to aid grantees in understanding grant management requirements.

He developed a strategic plan for continuing education and training based on program operational needs. Semder’s efforts have resulted in a significant improvement of bureau workflow and grant program delivery.

Barbara Marion, Nockamixon State Park

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Barbara Marion; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Barbara Marion completely reorganized and streamlined the parks filing system and helped guide staff through the transition to the new parks reservation system. She has been an excellent support staff person during the transition and has helped the staff learn transactions, financial session management, and processing transmittals.

Marion manages payroll and time management for park employees and catches any discrepancies or issues as they arise. She has an enthusiastic and warm personality and uses these traits to provide excellent customer service.

Kelly Sitch, Bureau of Forestry, Division of Conservation Science and Ecological Services

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Kelly Sitch; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Kelly Sitch was instrumental in the department adopting the Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) protocol used by state parks and worked tirelessly in adapting EDRR to fit the large-scale coverage of the Bureau of Forestry’s land base. He has worked with the gas monitoring program in implementing the EDRR program to fit the needs of the bureau, and expanding that to forest districts.

Sitch also organized and lead invasive plant identification field trainings for district staff, as well as gas company operators, to educate participants on the issues and problems that invasive plant species have on our forests.

Katie Woodbury, DCNR Policy Office

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund; Katie Woodbury; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Deputy Secretary Michael Walsh

Katie Woodbury has performed her role as policy analyst at a consistently superb level. The position is a demanding one, requiring constant juggling of many tasks at once, great attention to detail, great writing and analytical skills, and interpersonal skills. Woodbury provides critical coordination and input into tasks handled by the policy office, working closely with partners and other agencies.

Woodbury helped lead the SECA campaign with DCNR as the lead agency this past year, a huge commitment of time and energy. DCNR exceeded its fundraising goals and the SECA campaign was the most successful Commonwealth-wide ever.

DCNR Award for Leadership Excellence

Recognizes employees who display outstanding leadership qualities and exemplify excellence in problem solving and goal attainment for the agency.

Honored were:

Mark Dombrowski, Neshaminy State Park

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Mark Dombrowski; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Mark Dombrowski consistently addresses violations to ensure the security of the park and its visitors, and provides high quality experiential learning and training to all staff under his direction. When nearby parks are experiencing emergencies, special details, or gaps in coverage, he is the first to answer the call.

He, along with other chief rangers in the area, have been instrumental in establishing unofficial staff sharing protocols. Dombrowski is always willing to assist in training or guiding staff from other parks, and is happy to provide enforcement experience to staff requiring it.

Robert Neitz, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Robert Neitz; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Rob Neitz is at the front line of all department initiatives and is often used as one of the example of sustainability across the state park system. He promotes these initiatives both in and outside of his park boundaries. For six years Rob not only filled the role of the Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center manager, but also took over the duties of the Region 4 OPS Regional Coordinator following a retirement.

During this time of double duty, while filling both positions and all the duties associated with both, the staff saw a dramatic change at the site when they went from programming out of an old house to a park office and education center. Neitz’s leadership, commitment to excellence, customer service skills, were key to these accomplishments and transitions all occurring at the same time.

Jeff Woleslagle, Forest Resources Planning and Information

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Jeffrey (Jeff) Woleslagle; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Jeff Woleslagle always keeps his eye of the big picture, finding time to help whenever necessary. He manages to account for broad initiatives, delegates effectively, and shows appropriate trust in his colleagues to get the job done. His recognition of agency priorities and planning for job completion are commendable.

It is not uncommon for Woleslagle to invest weekend time furthering the mission and causes of DCNR, whether it is to attend a town-hall style event or take youth fishing on the Little Juniata.

Jason Zimmerman, Park Region #4, Regional Office

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Jason Zimmerman; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

As the Region 4 manager, Jason Zimmerman manages park managers and assistant managers along with staff associated with the parks in his region. He’s a supportive and engaging supervisor, ensuring staff is on the same page.

Zimmerman has been instrumental with the success of the Tinicum Aqueduct stabilization and repair project. Due to the blow out of a canal wall, immediate actions needed to be taken to ensure stabilization of the structure. He was able to set up quick meetings with the necessary personnel to make sure corrective actions were taken.

DCNR Award for Exceptional Service

This award recognizes the most outstanding customer support and employees who display the highest levels of commitment, enthusiasm, and competence in supporting the work of a bureau, office, or department.

Honorees were:

Megan Raftis, Ohiopyle State Park

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Megan Raftis; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Megan Raftis was hired as a seasonal clerk to staff the campground, launch area window, and visitor center front desk at Ohiopyle State Park. As Raftis is concerned with providing the best possible service, she felt she needed to experience the park’s many recreational offerings to be able to provide accurate and knowledgeable information to park visitors.

In 2017, she made several whitewater boating trips down the river, completed her goal to hike every trail in the park, totaling nearly 80 miles of trail, biked the Great Allegheny Passage, and visited all the facilities in the park. Because of her knowledge, she is able to quickly relate to visitors’ needs.

John Schwartzer, Forest District #1, Michaux State Forest

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; John Schwartzer; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Michaux State Forest Service Forester John Schwartzer has gone above and beyond his standard job duties to assist in and lead successful efforts to protect the forest from illegal dumping, protect a sensitive wetland area, and restore beauty to forgotten forest gems.

Schwartzer’s selfless dedication to and support of the surveillance camera program at Michaux State Forest has been invaluable. His efforts to stop the illegal off-roading of a sensitive seasonal wetland area resulted in actionable evidence that will be used for the prosecution of nearly a dozen forest vandals.

Rebekah Sheeler, Nockamixon State Park

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Rebekah Sheeler; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Rebekah Sheeler has excellent customer service skills, going above and beyond to accommodate as many visitors as possible with custom programs and learning opportunities. She is bilingual and frequently uses Spanish language skills to present programs in Spanish and provide customer service to visitors. Sheeler also offers program to senior citizens and visitors with special needs.

She reaches out to local youth through customized programs, summer camps, and career days, and works to grow connections between the park and local community.

Richard Temple, Division of Forest Fire Protection

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Richard Temple; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Richard Temple is responsible for daily operations, maintenance, and management of the division's fire cache, a warehouse where equipment and supplies used in fighting wildfires are stored.

His job duties include delivering items to the various forest districts when needed and transporting items to wildfires during emergencies when they occur. This job is a customer service position, where he provides the logistical support needed for Bureau of Forestry employees to accomplish our mission of protecting Pennsylvania from wildfires.

DCNR Award for Team Excellence

The DCNR Award for Team Excellence recognizes this group of individuals, who by working together continuously, cooperatively, and collaboratively resulted in greater productivity and effectiveness.

DCNR Website Team

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund; Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Charlie Miller; Jeffrey Woleslagle; Sherri Clukey; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Craig Schwartz; Kaitlyn Schroeder; Tara Ramsey; Mike Piaskowski; Deputy Secretary Michael Walsh (not pictured from the team include: Kristopher Haines, Amy Hill, Caron Pawlicki, and Bryan Peter)

This team includes the major players involved in transitioning DCNR's 10-year-old website into a newly-organized, customer- and mobile-friendly format and content management system. The website is the department's main communication tool.

One of the major reorganizations of content involved new pages for outdoor recreation activities that combine information for state parks and forests all in one place, and offer connections to events for that activity and other tips, such as how to stay safe.

Facility Design and Construction Request for Bid

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Craig Schwartz; Al Thomas; Teresa Allen; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Deputy Secretary Michael Walsh

In order to provide construction contractors with a better service in getting their bid documents, the ability to upload request-for-bid documents onto their own devices in their own time was needed. The team enacted this improved service, which now provides FDC bidders with a new user-friendly system. This website improvement also created efficiency within the department and reduced costs of mailing out documents.

Riparian Forest Buffers Team

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary John Norbeck; Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund; Katie Woodbury; Tracey Coulter; Kelsey Miller; Marlin Graham; Kelly Rossiter; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Matt Keefer; Teddi Stark; Rachel Reyna (not pictured from the team: Diane Kripas)

When asked by USDA and the Chesapeake Bay Program to revitalize Pennsylvania’s Riparian Forest Buffer (RFB) Initiative, DCNR staff formed a team that has produced tremendous results and notoriety for DCNR in a very short timeframe.

This team began with a win by procuring a $750,000 NFWF grant to further support buffer outreach and implementation. This team came together to strategize approaches for implementing one of the most challenging, but impactful BMPs—planting trees along streams. This group’s work has garnered statewide attention and rocketed DCNR to the forefront of watershed conservation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. They exceeded expectations; data show that RFB acres are increasing; and this team has great promise for future success.

Moraine State Park Drinking Water Team

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Left to right: Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund; John Jaskolka; Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Shawn Beeler; Gary Fleeger; Al Thomas; Deputy Secretary John Norbeck

The team worked together to think outside of the box and identify a viable ground water source for future drinking water at Moraine State Park. With failing infrastructure within the current surface water treatment system at the park and plans to tie-in to a private water utility stalled, the team was able to identify a source of ground water based on geological data and drill a well that surpassed all estimations for both quantity and quality of water. 

By executing this plan, the team will allow critical project dollars to be focused on improving the water distribution system rather than expensive upgrades to the existing surface water treatment plant.

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