Outstanding public service honored at Sammies gala

At the 2017 Service to America Medal awards, 26 finalists and 7 winners highlighted ground-breaking work across the federal government.

Phillip Brooks and Byron Bunker of the Environmental Protection Agency and Josh Van Eaton from the Department of Justice may have busted the largest scheme to evade the Clean Air Act ever. But the trio, who were named the Federal Employees of the Year last night at the 2017 Service to America Medals Awards ceremony in Washington, deflected the adulation and instead said they were able to do their job because federal employees across the country are doing important work every day.

Despite the modesty, Brooks, Bunker and Van Eaton led a team that helped secure a record $17.4 billion in legal settlements from Volkswagen “rigging more than a half million vehicles to evade pollution regulations, deceiving customers and lying to the government about its unlawful conduct.”

The effort and ensuing settlement demonstrated the power of interagency collaboration with agencies such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Trade Commission, and the technical expertise the government rarely gets credit for having.

More than 650 government and industry executives, dressed in black tie and evening gowns, celebrated the achievements of 26 finalists and seven winners.

The Partnership for Public Service received 440 nominations for the Sammies Awards.

The awards ceremony included messages from President Donald Trump recognizing and praising all the winners, and from President George W. Bush, who celebrated the achievements of Dr. Tedd Ellerbrock for his work fighting HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“At all levels of government America’s civil servants devote their time, energy and skill to finding creative solutions to some of our country’s greatest challenges,” Trump wrote. “Our nation celebrates this proud legacy of service and recognizes the outstanding efforts of those who make our public institutions more effective, efficient and accountable to the American people.”

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney recognized the team from the IRS which fought back against a fraud scheme that stole more than $54 million from 10,000 Americans.

Best-selling author Michael Lewis, who wrote Moneyball and the Big Short, gave the award to the Federal Employees of the Year, and Dean Kamen, an entrepreneur and inventor who created the Segway, honored the team behind the Food and Drug Administration’s artificial pancreas.

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