The City of Southlake put a new spin on an old movie classic to honor staff during Employee Appreciation Week 2020. The week-long celebration is dedicated to all City employees who go above and beyond to promote exceptional customer service to our residents and staff every day. This year’s theme, “There’s No Place Like Southlake,” was inspired by the film, “The Wizard of Oz.”
As part of the week, the City also honors individual employees across several award categories. The Director’s Awards honor employees who make an impact every day. The Southlake Values Awards recognize employees who exemplify the City’s values of integrity, innovation, accountability, excellence and teamwork. The Spirit of Southlake Award honors employees who exemplify the Southlake Way every day by being outstanding employees and team players. The Kristin Pitzinger Customer Service Award is named after late City employee Kristin Pitzinger, and recognizes the employee who exemplifies outstanding customer service. The Tenure Awards honor employees who have from five to 35 years of service with the City.
Director’s Award recipients include:
Jennifer Tucker is highly recognized for her leadership skills within the Southlake Public Library. “Jen is a natural leader and it takes about five minutes being with her to pick that up,” Southlake Public Library Deputy Director Cynthia Pfledderer said. “She takes charge of any project that is put into her lap and takes ownership of it and works with passion to deliver results.” Tucker has played a major role with service enhancements in the library. “Last year, we saw double digits in the increase of collections and the usage of the library,” Pfledderer said. Tucker’s ability to strategize and have a clear vision has led to her recognition for being an innovative leader and her commitment to excellence. “I think the Commitment to Excellence is the one that stands out the most to me because over the 10 years that I have known Jennifer, I have never seen her take the easy way, but the best way when she’s working on a project,” Pfledderer said.
Amy Bennett is the Assistant Recreation Manager for Community Services. Bennett is being recognized for her commitment to success. “She has shown a willingness to go the extra mile,” Director of Community Services Chris Tribble said, “Her hard work and dedication to the Southlake Way was a huge factor in our current success to the Champions Club.” This past year, Bennett served as the project manager for the ActiveNet Implementation team, developed multiple Standard Operating Procedures for Champions Club and was instrumental in the hiring, onboarding and training of well over 100 new staff members in Community Services. She has assisted in the development and execution of audits for fiscal accountability and ensured that the team was well-prepared for the opening of Champions Club. “We would not be where we are today without her contributions this year,” Tribble said, “She has worked her way up in this organization and I am proud of what she brings to the table.”
Kodi Wilder is a newbie to Team Southlake and has made a very good first impression. As the assistant to the Chief Financial Officer, Wilder bridges the gap working with customers and other departments. She is known for her dedication to excellence and wanting to deliver. “It’s simply amazing what she has accomplished in her short period of time she has been here,” said Chief Financial Officer Sharen Jackson said. Wilder is a results oriented person. She ensures and delivers results to the best of her ability and makes sure she understands the concerns of customers and teammates. “She owns anything that comes her way,” Jackson said. “She will own it from start to finish and make sure it is complete.” By working with other City departments, Wilder has become the go-to person in Finance. Within 12 months of her employment, Wilder worked with City Facilities on updating the Audio/Visual systems and the development of the computer replacement plan. “A lot of things she has accomplished have a city-wide impact,” Jackson said.
Daniel Lyons is a driver and engineer for the Southlake Fire Department and is known for his efforts in promoting health and physical fitness. “Daniel does a great job, has a great attitude, and he brings the department forward with his physical fitness program,” Southlake Fire Chief Mike Starr said. “He wants to make a difference and change people’s philosophies of physical fitness and lifestyle, and make sure they have a long and healthy career.” When it comes to the City’s values, Daniel is known for living those daily. He was recognized for his leadership abilities and setting the example for his staff. When he is not driving his team to a scene, Daniel trains personnel and oversees the health and wellness budget for the Southlake Fire Department.
Officer Tony Pate is known for his work as a School Resource Officer at Dawson Middle School. He was recognized for his strong commitment to excellence and for taking the welfare of his students at heart. “Tony really views himself as partnering with both the staff at Dawson Middle School and the parents to help ensure that our kids are safe and that they are coached and mentored, and they can grow up in a healthy environment,” Southlake Police Chief James Brandon said. Pate is also known for promoting the anti-vaping program called, “Catch My Breath.” The program was such a success, it extended to other schools within Carroll Independent School District. Pate was also recognized for being a great influence and going above and beyond in the course of his everyday duties. “He is a great example of what a SRO should be,” Chief Brandon said.
Lydia Ruiz has made her mark as a solid performer as the Administrative Secretary of Public Works. Director of Public Works Rob Cohen said Ruiz has a tremendous work ethic, and upholds the City’s core values and exemplifies teamwork. “Her most significant strength is the desire to do the best job she can,” Cohen said. Ruiz works closely with residents, consultants and other City departments. She is often assigned duties outside of her job description and researches and asks questions to tackle the job. “Her enthusiasm is second to none,” Cohen said. “She started in the Operations Department and worked closely with crew leaders, supervisors and employees and now has moved up to Public Works Administration.”
Chances are you have met Plans Examiner, Miranda Picklesimer if you’ve visited the Building and Inspections Division. She greets every customer with a smile and is highly respected for being knowledgeable and a resource to others. “There are a number of reasons Miranda received this year’s Director’s Award,” Senior Director of Planning and Development Ken Baker said. “One is her outstanding customer service.” She provides excellent customer service and understands the customers’ needs. If she can’t assist the customer, Picklesimer happily directs them to the person who can provide them with the information they need. She is also known for her teamwork. “She is a great team member. She is always willing to pitch in and get the job done to do whatever is needed to satisfy the customer and make sure we do whatever it is to do the job,” Baker said.
Southlake Value Awards
Kurt Ackermann is the facilities manager at Public Works and is the recipient of the Accountability Award. Ackermann exemplifies a can-do attitude and personality that is the epitome of internal and external customer service. He works with fellow employees from late into the evening to early in the morning in order to resolve issues. No matter what the issue is or when it occurs, Ackermann makes a swift resolution his priority. He takes the customer service values of his team very seriously and leads by example making sure his technicians understand how to best go about problem resolutions, while effectively communicating the process to Facilities’ internal customers. Ackermann has stated on many occasions, one of the major aspects he values in his employees is their ability to exemplify Southlake standards of customer service. His attentiveness to detail and compassion for others goes beyond his role as Facilities Manager.
Amity Robbins is the sales specialist in the Community Services Department and is the recipient of the Innovation Award. Robbins has played an essential role in building Legends Hall at The Marq’s reputation in the community to what it is now. She has bolstered many relationships among the community including solidifying re-occurring monthly bookings that helped exceed revenue projections up to $500,000. Every guest mentions how wonderful she is to work with and she is often complimented for her quick response times, along with pleasant demeanor and attitude. In recent surveys guests have noted, “Excellent customer service and precise communication. Amity is a very good listener and suggests ideas and helps understand the needs for an event like ours. Her valuable input and suggestions have made our stress a lot less.” Robbins has also sought out opportunities to better the team at Legends Hall by introducing the “Making Your Marq Jar” where part-time and full-time staff can recognize their fellow peers for their exceptional work and are entered into a drawing once a month. Robbins has also become involved in the employee engagement committee as she enjoys working with other departments and divisions on how to make all employees feel appreciated.
Ashley Carlisle is the environmental coordinator in the Public Works Department and is the recipient of the Teamwork Award. She is an effective employee, providing essential and consistent service to customers, coworkers and the City. She successfully authored several standard operating procedures for operations and supported numerous sustainability and public outreach campaigns to include a Care and Repair DIY Sprinkler System Workshop, Florence Elementary Science Night, Texas Well Owners Network Workshop, a Newcomers Guide to North Texas seminar and Fix-a-Leak Week education program. She managed over 80 Customer Service Inspections and multiple grease trap inspections, developed and managed our Liquid Waste Hauler Permitting Program in which 40 permits were issued, and managed the W.I.S.E. Guys Program as part of our sustainability goals. Carlisle also spearheaded the training of employees from multiple departments regarding illicit discharges. Carlisle was hand-selected to lead and participate on several committees and campaigns. She hosted a SYAC student at Public Works for Internship Day, coordinated community cleanups and helped to improve employee engagement in Public Works Operations. The results of her personal effectiveness are a testament to her dedicated efforts fulfilling our mission and purpose while delivering quality products.
Stephanie Warren works as the part-time front desk officer at the Southlake Police Department. Officer Warren has exemplified the Southlake Way in the highest standards. Recently, an 85-year-old citizen came into the police station lobby and reported that someone, who identified themselves as an IRS investigator, convinced him to FedEx $23,500 in cash to an address in California. Warren quickly identified this as an elderly fraud/scam case and also realized the time-sensitive nature of the investigation. Instead of taking an initial report, Warren went above and beyond to collect the necessary information from the victim and immediately contacted the FedEx fraud department and was able to intercept the package and its contents prior to delivery to the criminal culprits. Warren was able to have the package rerouted to her at the police station and she personally assisted the victim his daughter in ensuring ALL $23,500 was deposited back into the victim’s bank account THE NEXT DAY! Her commitment to excellence reflects greatly upon the Southlake Police Department and the City of Southlake.
Junior Camacho and Jose Guzman are the dynamic duo to receiving the Spirit of Southlake Award. Camacho is the parks contracts administrator and Guzman is the Landscape Technician for the Parks and Recreation Department. Both men have been known to rise to the occasion to meet the needs of our citizens. They are the reason why our parks are in such top-notch shape and serve as a destination space not only in Southlake but in DFW. In the past year, the two of them have worked together to spearhead our new Sunshine Committee. The goal of the committee is to actively engage our crew members into taking more ownership and accountability for their work. One of their first tasks was to help guide the group through selecting new uniforms to wear during large City events such as Home for the Holidays and Stars and Stripes. Camacho and Guzman led the group through selecting new higher-end polos and designed a brand new hat for the crews to wear. The committee also identified several different day-to-day uniform options. Instead of having only one uniform option, team members now have the opportunity to weigh in on the uniforms they will be wearing. The Sunshine Committee has also planned smaller fun events to celebrate milestones for the team, such as breakfast and lunches. Camacho and Guzman have become soundboards and mentors for their colleagues. Through their leadership has been a noticeable difference in engagement and teamwork within all the crews.
Misty Knaust is the customer service manager in Utility Billing and is the recipient of the Kristin Pitzinger Customer Service Award. Knaust is recognized for going above and beyond when it comes to teamwork and customer service. She often has to work with customers internally and externally, which is why she has the ability to deliver quality customer service. Chief Financial Officer Sharen Jackson highlights Knaust’s strengths with working customers: “She has multiple strengths. Her ability to woo people and tackle a lot of difficult things and challenges,” Jackson said, “She attacks with such great attitude to where its easy for people to come along with her and assist her with attacking whatever challenges and problems that exist.”
When you see these winners around Southlake, make sure you tell them congratulations and thank them for their hard work and dedication.