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Augusta County honors Employee of the Year, Award of Excellence winners

augusta county employee of the year
County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald presents the Employee of the Year award to Steve Montague. Photo courtesy Augusta County.

Augusta County honored 12 employees through the county’s Award of Excellence Program, including Steve Montague, who was named Employee of the Year at a luncheon on April 8 honoring the award recipients.

Montague was nominated for his help in live streaming the Board of Supervisors meetings particularly as COVID-19 made public attendance impossible. Because the board room’s sound system was more than 30 years old, trying to marry an analog system with digital streaming software took creative, technical problem solving, often under the stressful conditions of the antiquated system’s tendency to simply quit working at inopportune times.

Montague was also instrumental in integrating a call-in system for the public to speak at the meetings that would work with a virtual and in person audience.

“I’m very proud of Steve. He is constantly looking for ways to expand his knowledge,” IT director Jackie Zetwick said. This is an essential quality in order to keep ahead of constantly changing technological needs. I’m thrilled that his skill level and work ethic are being recognized. He is truly an asset to my team, county employees and county citizens.”

Also recognized was Ashley Craun, a 4-H program assistant with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Craun has worked over the past four years to expand Augusta County’s 4-H program, adding offerings and increasing the members served. New programs she has developed include a county 4-H cattle working team, a food challenge team, a robotics team, and a meat-judging team.

She worked directly with 4-H livestock judging and stockman’s teams, helping them prepare for, enroll in, and win many district and state contests.

Craun has also organized popular activities for youth that gets them moving, thinking and learning, such as rocketry, sewing, robotics, cake decorating and leadership workshops. In fact, total 4-H membership has grown by 59 percent since Ashley started.

“Ashley’s unfailing positive attitude and team building work approach have increased the scope of 4-H and Extension programs in the county,” says John Benner, unit coordinator at the Augusta County Extension Office. “She is a very dedicated worker. Ashley is committed to making Augusta County 4-H the best it can be.”

Most notably, Craun’s efforts to virtually hold the Market Animal Show ensured that the annual 4-H affair ran successfully despite the many additional weeks of work that it took to sort and organize exhibitor videos into a “virtual show.” Her work was met with the gratitude of hundreds of youth participants.

“I was very surprised to receive this award. I absolutely love my job and the kids that I get to work with every day,” Craun said.

The program also honored library assistant Diana Decker, who tirelessly took on projects, often as the only representative of the children’s department, and worked to ensure the safe and enjoyable experience for patrons when the library reopened.

For Decker, the sanitized and isolating pandemic environment inspired added and extra-special attention for children, through welcoming and warm personal touches and attention to details. Diana went the extra mile to create take-home activity packets every morning, complete with activity suggestions for overwhelmed parents. She also produced virtual story times and puppet shows for the library’s YouTube channel to connect with the smallest patrons.

When the library reopened (the first time after closing from the pandemic), Decker created joyful bulletin boards and decorations to create a cheerful and happy environment for families.

“It is clear that she takes great pride in her work and in the library,” said Diantha McCauley, library director at the time of the nomination. “Her attention to detail, creativity, compassion, and impeccable work ethic make Diana a wonderful asset to Augusta County.”

The feeling is apparently mutual.

“I love working in the Augusta County Library system!  My job is so fulfilling because I can use my organizational skills, my interest for the community and my passion for art to reach families in our local area. I’m so blessed to be able to contribute to a great county system while working with a great group of people,” Decker said.

The final group honored was the facilities maintenance staff: John Cook, Nick Dull, Lee Gill, Joey Good, Michael Johnson, Garrett Nichols, Danielle Page, Jack Root and Ray Woehr.

There is probably not one department that has carried the burden of changes in workload and in work process due to COVID-19 more than the facilities management team. From the very start of the pandemic in March 2020, it fell on facilities staff to quickly implement processes to satisfy the stringent cleaning and disinfecting requirements from the CDC and Virginia Health Department.

Throughout the year, the department had to regularly add training sessions to meet the rapidly changing public safety requirements and learn the newest recommended methods for sanitizing. The department was also tasked with installation of extensive protective barriers in most county facilities.

The long-term and sheer quantity of work could not have been done without the facilities team pulling together, supporting one another, taking on whatever job was in front of them, and helping each other do what needed to be done.

All without interruption to the department’s regular services and assignments. All without complaint. All while managing the enormous responsibility of keeping county staff and the public safe during a time of fear, anxiety, and many unknowns.


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