Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Florida TaxWatch & FSU Legend Charlie Ward Honor State Employees at 2018 Prudential Productivity Awards

Over the past 29 years, state employees committed to efficiency and innovative thinking have saved more than $10 billion in state dollars. These often-overlooked individuals spend countless hours not only serving the state of Florida, but also developing new ideas to keep the Sunshine State competitive and thriving. In order to give these exceptional individuals the recognition they deserve, Florida TaxWatch created the Prudential Productivity Awards program.

The program publicly recognizes and rewards state employees and work units whose work significantly increases productivity and promotes innovation to save tax dollars and improve state services. State agencies are encouraged to work together to replicate the savings across state government.

This year's Prudential Productivity Awards program received hundreds of nominations, and Florida TaxWatch will present 170 awards to approximately 750 employees from 26 different agencies for their achievements and efforts.

On Tuesday, Florida TaxWatch held the first of three awards ceremonies to recognize winners from Tallahassee and Jacksonville at the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall. FSU Legend Charlie Ward, a former athlete that knows firsthand about overcoming setbacks and exceeding expectations, joined the event as a keynote speaker. The Heisman Trophy winner shared stories of his time at Florida State and in the NBA. He stressed the importance of being a team player and of having excellent work ethic even in positions where one might be undervalued.

Of the 83 award winners honored at Tuesday’s ceremony, three cash prize winners were recognized on stage for their exemplary service to the state of Florida.

The Florida Park Service GIS Team, based out of Tallahassee, is one of the 2018 top prize winners. The team developed a rapid response application to provide “real-time” state park closure, emergency status, and damage assessment reporting. This system removed the cumbersome process of updating spreadsheets and out-of-date information and allowed the Park Service to rapidly respond to maintenance issues at the parks during Hurricane Irma. With the ability to reach 174 state parks, this application saves staff time and expedites reporting. Thanks to this team’s dedication to improving service output, more than one update can be sent in a day during state evacuations so travelers can easily find rest stops and lodging.

Another Tallahassee-based top prize-winning team, Alan Abramowitz and Thomasina Moore of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program, launched the Defending Best Interests Project, (DBI Project) providing free private representation on appellate cases to dependent children. GAL collaborated with The Florida Bar to enlist pro bono attorneys to help with appellate cases. The program was originally faced with an 11 percent spike in the number of abused, neglected and abandoned children coming into out-of-home care and lacking the resources to meet this need. This achievement has allowed GAL to shift 2 appellate attorney positions to the trial level and provide courtroom representation for another 470 abused and neglected children in the dependency system. The DBI project has already reduced the size of its Appellate Division by 26% for an annual cost savings of $143,067.48 in salary and benefits. The money saved has been redirected to field work and direct representation of dependent children.

Jeannelyn Adona, an FDLE Crime Laboratory Analyst from Jacksonville, was awarded a top prize for exceeding her annual casework productivity expectation by approximately 259.8%. She also singlehandedly completed the work of two Crime Laboratory Analysts in the Biology section while simultaneously serving as a principal instructor for two analysts in training. Last year, there was a backlog of over 2,000 cases in the Jacksonville Biology Section, including such heinous crimes as homicide and sexual assault. Jeannelyn recognized the need for an individual member to step up and complete casework efficiently and accurately to ease the burden of the other 14 case working analysts in Jacksonville Biology.

"State workers rarely get recognized for their dedication to making sure Florida continues to be the best state in the country for years to come," said Florida TaxWatch President & CEO Dominic M. Calabro. "Florida TaxWatch wants to ensure that the taxpayers notice the contributions of these hard-working stewards and that state employees get the praise they deserve."

The nearly 30-year-old program would not be possible without a rather impressive list of sponsors including Prudential, AvMed Health Plans, Capital Health Plan, Florida Council of 100, Florida Trend, Intersect Media Solutions, North Highland, Accenture, AJAX, Lead Engineering Contractors, LLC, Brandt Information Services, Kyra Solutions, Inc., Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Publix Super Markets Charities, Waste Management, Wells Fargo, DXC, EY, Odebrecht, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, Florida Institute of CPAs and Tate Enterprises.

“The commitment of these incredible public servants to work together to build a better Florida means that state government can direct taxpayers' hard-earned money to the vital services that make the Sunshine State a great place to live and raise a family,” said Prudential Vice President for External Affairs Michael McCann.

“Like any vital enterprise, state government needs proficient, dedicated, and innovative state employees,” said Florida Council of 100 President & CEO Bob Ward. “What separates these individuals from others is their degree of innovation, productivity, exceptional dedication, and beneficial impact so that the state of Florida remains the best state for families and businesses.”

Two more Prudential Productivity Awards ceremonies will be held later this month in Lakeland and the Miami area. To see the full 2018 list of PPA winners, visit the Florida TaxWatch website here.