The Employee Excellence webpage recognizes those county employees who ensure that resources and services are available for our residents, businesses and guests through innovative adaptations to processes, integrating new technologies and overall committed efforts and resiliency. Many of these stories are recognized by County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey at the monthly Board of Supervisors meetings for exemplifying everyday excellence in service to the county.
This video serves as a thank you to our county employees who have modified and adapted to continue providing everyday excellence to our citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We stand ready to serve you!
- July Excellence: Tamara Highsmith and Sara Elkins
- June Excellence: Laura Jensen
- May Excellence: Environmental Engineering
- April Excellence: Information Systems Technology
- March Excellence: Taiwan Everette
- February Excellence: Jill Bryant
- January Excellence: Sheriff's Office
- 2020 Archive
July 2021 Everyday Excellence: Tamara Highsmith and Sara Elkins
(Learning and Performance Center, Animal Services)
During the Wednesday, July 28 Board of Supervisors meeting, Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recognized two members of the Learning and Performance Center (LPC) staff as recipients of the July 2021 Everyday Excellence for their volunteer work with Chesterfield Animal Services to foster animals until they are ready to be put up for adoption.
LPC’s Tamara Highsmith, strategy and performance coordinator, and Sara Elkins, performance consultant, both serve as Animal Services’ go-to fosters for young kittens and puppies that aren’t old enough to be adopted.
“It started with Tamara reaching out to us and wanting to help us expand our foster program,” said Andrea Ramat, Animal Services supervisor. “When we get small kittens in that needed to be fostered, there are a very small number of employees who were willing or able to foster, and without fostering, so many kittens and puppies would not make it to their adoption days.”
Highsmith has a background in fostering animals and animal care, so it was a natural fit for her to volunteer as a foster. Her passion and enthusiasm for fostering helped recruit several other county employees, including Elkins. In fact, Highsmith and Elkins were instrumental in organizing the first-ever foster training program for county employees in October 2018 and continue to assist with training and recruiting county employees for the program. Today, more than 45 county employees participate in Animal Services’ foster program.
Since the start of the county employee foster program, the number of animals being fostered has more than doubled—allowing for more pets to be saved and adopted. According to Animal Services, between Highsmith and Elkins, they have fostered well over 100 animals, sometimes having 5-10—or more—kittens or puppies at a time.
In addition to fostering and recruiting others to join the program, they also assist when they can with providing supplies. Although all necessary items for fostering are provided by Animal Services, Highsmith and Elkins will often purchase milk, litter and other supplies with their own funds for their fosters. Their generosity ensures Animal Services has enough supplies for other foster animals.
“I can say, without a doubt, that if it wasn’t for Tamara and Sara, our foster program would not be as successful as it is today,” said Ramat. “So many citizens of Chesterfield have their furry best friends thanks to the dedicated efforts of Tamara Highsmith and Sara Elkins!”
For more information, view the Everyday Excellence presentation during the July 28, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Tamara Highsmith and Sara Elkins
June 2021 Everyday Excellence: Laura Jensen
(Chesterfield County Employee Medical Center)
During the Wednesday, June 23 Board of Supervisors meeting, Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recognized Laura Jensen as the recipient of the June 2021 Everyday Excellence.
Jensen works as a nurse practitioner for the Chesterfield County Employee Medical Center (EMC), where she sees and treats patients, approves reconciled money for the EMC, and develops and performs quality control programs.
Jensen said she wanted to be a nurse practitioner because of the time she could spend with patients and the opportunity to build relationships with them. Her concentration began with family medicine and now focuses on occupational health and urgent care.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jensen was promoted to practice manager, requiring her to endure an extremely busy workload. She had to face many new challenges that were unknown prior to the pandemic, including training school nurses on administering the COVID-19 vaccine, updating county information on ways to stay safe during the pandemic, providing guidance to exposed and ill COVID-19 patients, and monitoring the county’s vaccination efforts.
As the COVID-19 cases surged across Chesterfield and around the region, Jensen became the emotional support for many of her patients and several nurses battling the deadly pandemic.
“Our role is to stay on top of the challenges to ensure we are providing the best care possible, but it was changing very literally every three days for a few months,” Jensen said. “Our staff works very well together and really powered through the challenges.”
For more information, view the Everyday Excellence presentation during the June 23, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting.
May 2021 Everyday Excellence: Environmental Engineering
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, May 26, Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recognized the Environmental Engineering Department as the recipient of the May 2021 Everyday Excellence.
Environmental Engineering serves the community by working with businesses, residents and the development community to protect natural resources and enhance communities while accommodating growth and development.
Their responsibilities include making sure the engineering, construction and maintenance of the county’s storm water sewer system, and its treatment facilities, meet certain standards for the protection of property and the environment, safety of our residents and improvement of stormwater runoff.
Like many county departments, COVID-19 presented many challenges for Environmental Engineering, with most being on the operations side. One of those challenges was the need to limit work crews to five people rather than the typical seven to twelve member crews for large projects. This allowed for better social distancing. The department also tried to keep the same people working together whenever possible throughout the pandemic to help limit exposure to COVID-19. This staffing challenge made many tasks take longer to complete but paid off as the departments operations section COVID-19 exposure was limited to just one person since March 2020. Recently, these crews have started operating back at pre-COVID capacity.
In addition to COVID-19, the county faced two historically wet periods in 2018 and 2020, according to Drainage Superintendent Jerry Duffy. In fact, 2018 and 2020 were two of the three wettest years in the county since 1870, and because it was so wet, Environmental Engineering saw a 60% increase in work requests. Crews were especially busy during the August 2020 historic flood event, which led to a lot of work fixing log and debris dams along streams, storm water ponds and clearing blocked storm sewers.
Snow and ice also impacted these crews and, when the February 2021 ice storms hit Chesterfield, Environmental Engineering was on standby ready to assist as needed. With COVID-19 still being a concern, crews worked hard with two trucks being dispatched per team in order to maintain social distancing. These crews also cleared roads from fallen trees and storm debris, assisting VDOT during peak clean-up times to get county roads open as quickly as possible. These requests included over 200 fallen trees removed from roads due to the ice storm.
The Environmental Engineering Department has always been dedicated to serving the residents and businesses of Chesterfield, and during storms or times of natural disasters, much like our first responders, these individuals are hard at work during a storm while many of us are at home safe. For example, during the ice storms, crews worked approximately 96 hours over in rotating 12-hour shifts in order to keep the roads clear. This also meant some crew members had to leave their own families who were also without power to come to work.
In addition to COVID-19, Environmental Engineering has faced other challenges this year, including the ability to get materials. As a result of such high demand for certain products, Environmental Engineering had to get creative when it came to reusing some materials.
Two materials that have been extremely hard to get recently have been surge rip rap and class one rip rap. To get around this supply challenge, the department uses recycled concrete from other projects to allow for erosion control. Additionally, it is considered a green practice because less energy is spent and the concrete is reused instead of going to the landfill. This also provides cost savings to the county.
For more information, listen to the Everyday Excellence presentation during the May 26, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Environmental Engineering staff members, from left: Theo Taylor, Dallas Bradbury, Patrick Jensen, Tommy Napier, Carl Glover, Mark Florentine, Wayne “Trip” Hatch, Jason Hutchinson and Jerry Duffy.
April 2021 Everyday Excellence: Information Systems Technology
At the Wednesday, April 28 Board of Supervisors meeting, Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recognized the Information Systems Technology (IST) Department as the recipient of the April 2021 Everyday Excellence.
IST members acknowledged during the Board of Supervisors meeting included: Chris Coleman, Lauren Henry, Sherry Hensley, Daniel Rubio and Todd Wells.
IST is primarily responsible for providing and protecting information technology, infrastructure management, project management and technology solution delivery for dozens of Chesterfield County Government divisions and the Chesterfield County Public Library system.
However, those duties were expanded following the state’s deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine to members of the public in late December.
In late January, a team of 30 IST staff members created the Vaccine Administration and Reporting System (VARS). This first iteration of the system, which was used for Chesterfield County Government employees, was functional in less than seven days.
In early February, Chesterfield County signed a memorandum of understanding with the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Chesterfield Health District (CHD) – allowing IST to begin assisting in the CHD vaccine registration process. These efforts benefited not only Chesterfield County, but also Powhatan County and the City of Colonial Heights as members of the CHD.
Chesterfield’s VARS is among the first systems to integrate with VDH’s statewide preregistration system to securely transfer data on residents wishing to be vaccinated to the local health district for use. Concurrently, VARS is also among the first systems in the state to integrate with the Virginia Immunization System (VIIS), which reports data back to VDH once an individual is vaccinated.
In April, IST launched VARS version 2, which allowed members of the public to receive email invitations, complete consent forms and perform self-scheduling all from within the same system.
Following the implementation of VARS, IST staff:
- Managed the flow of data from state systems to the local VARS system daily.
- Assisted the Chesterfield Health District in troubleshooting data issues with the state pre-registration system.
- Continued to improve the invitation and clinic management software with input from medical professionals in the COVID-19 vaccination points of distribution (PODs).
- Emailed over 90,000 CHD residents invitations to vaccination clinics.
- Completed training to CHD personnel on Microsoft applications Teams, Bookings and Outlook.
- Provided software, tablets and computers for the vaccination PODs at the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds, Public Safety Training Center and Employee Medical Center.
For months, IST staff worked afterhours, nights and weekends to provide heroic support – delivering tens of thousands of doses to the elderly, employees, companies and others in all tiers of COVID-19 vaccination phase 1 and, now, phase 2.
As a result of IST’s hard work, attention to detail and determination to help Chesterfield County citizens, wait times for a vaccine at county-supported PODs have decreased while the county’s vaccination rate has surged. Total time spent in the COVID-19 vaccination PODs has averaged less than 20 minutes, which includes the 15-minute mandatory wait time.
Aside from delivering stellar customer service, system upgrades and webpage development, IST staff members have also worked in-person at every county-supported COVID-19 vaccine POD, assisting in all areas, including non-technical tasks such as pushing residents in wheelchairs from their vehicles to the POD and checking out individuals from the POD after they received their vaccinations.
“These members of the IST department exemplify the meaning of true customer service and dedication to community,” said Barry Condrey, Chesterfield County Chief Information Officer. “This team worked tirelessly to serve the people of Chesterfield County, and Powhatan County and the City of Colonial Heights, by moving swiftly to create and integrate data systems and processes to get people appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine, and, ultimately, inoculated. Our increasing vaccination rate and level of support at vaccine PODs across the county are a testament to their hard work. I couldn’t be more proud to have such a dedicated group of people working within IST.”
For more on this story, listen to the Everyday Excellence presentation during the April 28 Board of Supervisors meeting.
IST's Inderpreet Singh assists a COVID-19 vaccination POD volunteer.
March 2021 Everyday Excellence: Taiwan Everette
At the Wednesday, March 10 Board of Supervisors meeting, Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recognized Taiwan Everette as the recipient of the March 2021 Everyday Excellence recognition.
As a code enforcement inspector for the Department of Community Enhancement, an ordinary day for Everette consists of inspecting vehicle registration, business licenses, contractor enforcement, property maintenance and zoning enforcement.
On Thursday, December 10, 2020, however, Everette did something far beyond the ordinary for a code enforcement inspector; he helped a citizen experiencing a health crisis.
Parked on Route 288, the amber lights of his county vehicle flashing, Everette was operating a license plate reader system to find vehicle registration violations. Suddenly, a car passed by Everette, stopped about 100 yards ahead and began to reverse.
A man emerged from the car, running towards Everette’s vehicle. Thinking Everette may be a police officer, the man said he needed help—his passenger had fallen asleep and would not wake up.
Without hesitation, Everette ran to the car, where he saw an unconscious man slumped over the dashboard. Everette checked the man’s vitals, called 9-1-1 and, at the emergency operator’s direction, lifted the man from the vehicle. He began to administer CPR.
Minutes later, a state trooper arrived on scene and administered two doses of Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat narcotic overdoses in an emergency. Soon, more state officers and officers from Chesterfield County arrived, followed by first responders from Chesterfield’s Emergency Medical Services. They loaded the man into an ambulance and transported him to a hospital for further treatment.
Richard Billingsley, a Community Enhancement license inspector, has worked with Everette for 18 years. At the meeting, Billingsley said, “Taiwan’s actions on that date and his willingness to take action when others were in need reflect great credit upon himself and Chesterfield County.”
Billingsley also revealed that this type of emergency assistance is nothing new for Everette.
“Several years ago,” recounted Billingsley, “he assisted a motorist in a similar situation who had passed out and crashed his vehicle.”
“And many years ago,” Billingsley added, “Taiwan helped the police recapture a suspect who had tried to escape from the magistrate’s office.”
Everette, a former starting linebacker for Winston-Salem State University’s football team, was able to tackle the fleeing man just short of Ironbridge Road.
“I think if you asked him today,” said Billingsley, “he would tell you that he has not lost a step since his playing days.”
For more on this story, listen to the Everyday Excellence presentation during the March 10 Board of Supervisors meeting.
February 2021 Everyday Excellence: Jill Bryant
(Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court)
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 24, County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recognized Jill Bryant for earning the February 2021 Everyday Excellence recognition.
As a judicial administrative assistant, Bryant supports the work of all six judges in the Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. An employee of Chesterfield County since 2004, she was hired into her current role in 2016—and had some big shoes to fill.
In her nomination of Bryant, Clerk of Court Laura Griffin wrote, “Jill replaced the long-serving, much-beloved previous judicial administrative assistant who set the gold standard for administrative assistants everywhere. To be candid, I don’t think anyone thought we would ever find someone like her predecessor.”
However, Griffin affirmed that Bryant not only met the bar set by her predecessor—she managed to set it even higher.
“Jill’s skill set is unbelievable,” wrote Griffin. “She has automated, improved or refined every work process we have tasked her with. She sets up conferences with ease, maintains the court-appointed counsel rotation for the third largest Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in the commonwealth and coordinates the driver’s license ceremonies for every youth in Chesterfield County.”
And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryant’s indispensable abilities have allowed the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to continue operations safely. Bryant has set up hundreds of remote hearings, coordinated virtual driver’s license ceremonies for nearly 1,000 new drivers and developed instructions to help deputy clerks and sheriff’s deputies operate new audio/video equipment.
At the meeting, Supervisor Leslie Haley (Midlothian District) noted that, despite regularly facing difficult questions and situations in her role, “Jill manages to never lose her patience, her professionalism and adequately deal with these things very timely. So I have to add my kudos to that.”
In accepting the Everyday Excellence recognition, Bryant acknowledged the commitment of her coworkers. “I am also very blessed to work alongside such a great team of dedicated public servants who proudly serve the citizens of Chesterfield County and provide access to justice,” she said.
Bryant concluded, “I am just one of many.”
To hear more about this story, listen to the Everyday Excellence presentation from the Feb. 24 Board of Supervisors meeting.
January 2021 Everyday Excellence: Sheriff's Office
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27, County Administrator Dr. Joseph Casey recognized the Sheriff’s Office and their partners as the honorees of this month’s Everyday Excellence.
Recently, the Sheriff’s Office was presented with a unique opportunity to assist a resident in need, ultimately harnessing the power of community and intra-governmental collaboration in the process.
In November, a retired Army officer was booked in the Chesterfield County Jail but, due to medical needs, entered temporary detainment in an independent medical infirmary cell. There, he received immediate aid while many employees and partners worked to secure him the care they knew he would need in the future.
First, the man’s car had been towed after his arrest, and the Sheriff’s Office discovered it was accumulating a $50-per-day storage fee. Not wanting the bill to become insurmountably large for the man, Sheriff Karl Leonard contacted his American Legion post, a veterans’ services organization, who paid the bill and had the car towed to the man's residence.
Major Jim Pritchett worked with Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Social Services to secure an agent with power of attorney to act on behalf of the man.
Then, April Hutchison, re-entry coordinator with the Sheriff’s Office, began working with the Veterans Health Administration to garner the man a place in a long-term care facility following his release from jail. At first unsuccessful, she diligently considered Medicare-funded options and successfully arranged the man’s transfer to a local senior living facility. To expedite the transfer, Hutchison utilized the county’s mental health grant to pay for the man’s first 30 days of admission.
Meanwhile, Leonard engaged Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport and General District Court Clerk Linda Moore to help ensure the court system accommodated the man’s health and new residence.
The man moved into the senior living facility in early January, where he is now receiving the specialized care he needs.
To read more about this story, listen to the Everyday Excellence presentation from the Jan. 27 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Sheriff Karl Leonard
Major Jim Pritchett