Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 02:00 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today presented the 2020 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Public Service, recognizing team members for their dedicated work in state government and making a positive difference in the lives of North Dakota citizens during an extremely challenging year.

“The efforts by Team North Dakota members to fight this pandemic and maintain services to our citizens, often in new and innovative ways, has been nothing short of remarkable, delivering on our shared purpose to Empower People, Improve Lives and Inspire Success,” Burgum said. “The record 806 nominations we received this year is a testament to team members’ exceptional work. We are deeply grateful for these individuals, their teams and their tireless dedication to our state and its citizens.”

The awards were presented during a virtual ceremony livestreamed from the Capitol during State Team Member Recognition Month.

The awards and recipients are:

Heritage Award for Excellence in Citizen Focus: Jennifer Blumhagen, assistant Motor Vehicle Division director with the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), for embracing innovation to provide effective and efficient service for citizens. Blumhagen’s efforts led to adoption of appointment-based services at all NDDOT locations, helping move a number of services online, reducing wait times and improving service for a more mobile population.

Telegraph Award for Excellence in Technology: Eli Cornell, lead architect with North Dakota Information Technology, for his work in adapting technology to respond in new and innovative ways to unprecedented challenges and empowering North Dakota’s COVID-19 response with invaluable tools for testing and contact tracing and automating traditionally manual processes.

Pioneer Award for Excellence in Innovation: Jessica Thomasson, executive policy director for community inclusion with the Department of Human Services, for developing innovative policies that best serve those among North Dakota’s most vulnerable populations, including her work that was instrumental in helping child care services continue to operate through the pandemic.

Zezula Award – “One Who Helps” (3 recipients):

  • Kim Dockter, education and special projects coordinator with the North Dakota Supreme Court, for her work in educating, supporting and empowering a successful transition to a remote environment for North Dakota’s courts and ensuring continuity for the state’s justice system.
  • Clint Fleckenstein, multimedia specialist with the Department of Health, for his work as the technical expert behind the state’s COVID-19 press briefings and helping to ensure effective, transparent communication with public health organizations, media and multiple other stakeholder groups during the ongoing crisis.
  • Steve Schutt, night watchman at the North Dakota Veterans Home, for his more than seven years of commitment and kindness to North Dakota’s veterans. Schutt goes above and beyond his job description to provide veterans with care and compassion through a helping hand, friendly company, a kind word or a quiet presence.

Landmark Award for Excellence in People Management: Colby Braun, director of facility operations for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for his leadership of a team caring for vulnerable citizens in a high-stress environment and for his commitment to the continued health and safety of those in his charge. With a commitment to effective and transparent communication, Braun has driven consistent implementation of policies, procedures and protocols to ensure consistent management practices across multiple facilities.

Frontier Award for Excellence in Continuous Learning: Justin Data, project director with North Dakota Information Technology, for demonstrating a commitment to learning and empowering his team members to embrace new knowledge. Data has been a key member of the state’s Continuity of Government Team, supporting ongoing efforts to develop policies for working differently and new workplaces in a rapidly evolving environment.

Harvest Award for Excellence in Quality: Kathleen Donahue, deputy planning section chief in the Department of Emergency Services, for her commitment to quality in preparing disaster declaration requests, reviewing hazard mitigation plans and other efforts, helping make North Dakota’s people and communities whole after disasters and assisting in making them stronger and more resilient to future events.

Sodbuster Award for Excellence in Growth Mindset: Maj. Aaron Hummel, chief of staff with the North Dakota Highway Patrol, for his efforts to address and reduce shame and stigma associated with behavioral health challenges among our law enforcement community. Hummel is leading efforts to ensure that policies employ modern approaches to behavioral health and to implement a wellness app that will provide on-demand, around-the-clock access to confidential support.

Roaming Bison Award (Team): North Dakota’s COVID-19 Response Team, for using a whole-of-government approach to respond to a rapidly and constantly changing environment and unprecedented challenges. State Microbiology Lab Director Dr. Christie Massen accepted the award on behalf of the team, which involves hundreds of members across multiple agencies.

“To say these recipients went above and beyond the call of duty doesn’t even begin to cover it,” Burgum said. “Day after day, night after night, we asked so much of these team members, stretching them to the limit and beyond because we knew, and they knew, that lives literally were at stake. And day after day, they found a way to deliver – to save lives and livelihoods.”

VIDEO: 2020 Governor's Awards for Excellence in Public Service