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story.lead_photo.caption Chris Englebrecht, right, receives a Pinnacle Award from Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday as Missouri's Office of Administration hosted the annual Governor's Award for Quality and Productivity in the Capitol Rotunda. Engelbrecht, who works for MoDOT, was recognized for his work in a collaborative effort in the State Emergency Management Agency Common Operating Picture and Situational Awareness Portal. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Gov. Mike Parson presented five teams from state departments with the annual Governor's Awards for Quality and Productivity.

Parson told listeners before the awards presentation that being the governor of Missouri is a high honor for him because he gets to work with some of the best people in the world.

As he learns more about his directors and the state's employees, Parson said, he sees the dedication behind the people who serve Missouri.

"And make no mistake about it, I ask a lot of people," Parson said.

He asks the state's employees to take an incredible amount of responsibility for their work.

"How do we do a better job? How do we become more efficient?" Parson said. "And, how do we really change government as a whole? How do we truly become better public servants?"

The only way the governor can accomplish that mission is through the state's employees, he said, and he congratulated the winners.

"Everything you do from here on out matters," he said, "because somebody's going to ask, 'Why did you get that award?' 'What changed you — a state employee who's been here for a long time?' 'What direction do you want to go in to be leaders?'"

Being the best does not make people good leaders — good leaders are the people who make those around them better, Parson said.

The awards were established in 1988. At that time, nominations could be submitted for a project that was completed and received approval from its department or agency. The nominations were reviewed by a selection committee based on a set of criteria, according to the awards program. In 2001, the use of specific award categories were introduced.

The awards recognize winning teams in three categories — Customer Service, Efficiency/Process Improvement and Innovation. In 2010, the state implemented the Pinnacle Award — which is only offered if the award Selection Committee determines a nominee for one of the three awards encompasses other award categories — or exceeds all other nominations. So, it doesn't happen each year. Five teams were honored Thursday for their projects.

This year's winner of the Pinnacle Award — the State Emergency Management Agency Common Operating Picture and Situational Awareness Portal — came about through a collaborative effort between the Missouri departments of Transportation and of Public Safety.

The team, which included members of the Administration of Geographic Information System, developed an electronic platform to improve the state's disaster response. They designed an electronic platform that enhanced situational awareness during disasters so emergency responders would have a "comprehensive real-time operating picture as disasters unfold," according to an Office of Administration news release. It has a dashboard that displays the statuses of hospitals and medical facilities, hazardous materials, transportation and communication infrastructures. And, it combines those with field reports and live weather, traffic and demographic feeds.

"Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency have stated the SEMA Situational Awareness Portal is currently the most sophisticated program of its type being utilized in the United States," according to the release.

MoDOT received the Customer Service award for its North Fork Emergency Bridge Replacement on routes PP and CC in Ozark County.

Major flooding in spring 2017 in Ozark County, southeast of Springfield, washed away two bridges. Replacement contracts for both bridges were awarded within about two months. Designs for the new bridges were created to minimize inconvenience for residents and to prevent future floods from damaging the structures.

Bridge elevations and lengths were changed to accomplish the goals. By October 2017 (after less than six months), both bridges had been completed and opened to traffic. The typical process for design and construction of similar bridges is about three years.

Two teams won Innovation Awards.

The Department of Transportation team won the award for its "Buckle Up Phone Down" program. That program is credited with reducing crash injuries and fatalities by causing a change in driver and passenger behavior — particularly regarding seat belt use and texting.

Program participants frequently submit a photo of themselves giving the "thumbs up/thumbs down" hand gesture associated with the challenge. Photos are uploaded to a wall of fame.

As of Dec. 26, 2019, more than 500 businesses and 11,000 individuals had accepted the challenge. And Missouri seat belt use has climbed to its highest rate ever — 87.1 percent.

The Department of Conservation won the award for its "Roaring River First Hole Program," which provides fishing experiences for those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go fishing.

The program identified potential participant groups — including wounded veterans, at-risk children, foster children, home-schooled children, school groups, people with special needs and nursing home patients. Groups from as far away as Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield traveled to Roaring River State Park, west of Table Rock Lake, where they experienced unique fishing opportunities.

More than 4,000 participants got the opportunity to experience fishing through the First Hole Program.

The Department of Social Services received the Efficiency/Process Improvement Award for its Family Support Division — Program Integrity Unit.

The goal was to eliminate a backlog of thousands of cases by 90 percent in less than 18 months. The program accomplished the goal by eliminating inefficient processes and procedures and various constraints. It also reorganized the Family Support Division. It used Theory of Constraints (the process of identifying and eliminating processes that limit work flow) to eliminate bottlenecks. It was accomplished by focusing on using existing resources (no new staff) and holding weekly brainstorming huddles, according to the release.

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