Rewarding the good things in state government
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report



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SEPT. 7, 2003 - - With all people hear that's negative about government - - budget cuts, layoffs, bureaucratic snafus, legislative wrangling - - it's refreshing to hear something good.

Take the case of Walter Metz, an ombudsman in the governor's office who helped an amnesic man find out who he was. Or engineers at SC ETV who have found hundreds of thousands of dollars in free television parts and equipment by scouring stations that are upgrading around the South.

Or Paul Gowder at the state Department of Health and Human Services who developed an online portal to help fellow employees work remotely. Because they could work from home, the department was able to continue to deliver services during times of bad weather.

The list goes on and on, says state Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter. Earlier this year, he started a state employee acknowledgment program known as the Blue Granite Recognition to highlight excellence.

"In these days of unbridled political rhetoric, people sometimes forget that the schools don't open by themselves, prisons don't remain secure by themselves and roads don't get paved by themselves," he said.

"There is a legion of people in this state who call themselves state employees who provide these things for us. They need to be recognized."

On a Web site ( that highlights monthly winners of the recognition, Leventis adds, "Our state employees ensure the quality of life we expect is always there for us. Their jobs are not glamorous. They do not receive the maximum financial incentives available, but the work is absolutely necessary."

Metz, who has worked in the governor's office solving problems for people, said he was honored by the recognition, but noted that the work he does is replicated by many of the state's 60,000 employees.

"This was not unusual," he said. "What I did is being done by a great number of state employees every day. There are a lot of state employees doing a lot of things people never think of."

Metz, who has worked in the public and private sectors for 25 years, said the timing of the program started by Leventis was perfect.

"I've never seen a period in which the state worker or government worker is more of the perceived enemy than anything else. The perception is of the bureaucrat."

The Blue Granite Recognition, therefore, is a big morale booster, especially as the state faces more possible cuts and layoffs, he added.

"It's a big deal," Leventis said, "because by talking about extraordinary things people do, it allows you to think about the ordinary things they do every day that make the differences to ordinary people."

If you know of a state employee who you believe deserves recognition for a job well-done, you can go to the Web site and make a nomination. The Blue Granite Recognition is awarded monthly.

"Common characteristics of winners will be their extraordinary service, selflessness, innovation, insight, initiative and persistence toward exceptional outcomes on behalf of all South Carolinians," Leventis said. "Recipients will be those who distinguish themselves by surpassing the expectations outlined for them either in job descriptions or sworn oaths."

Fiddling with the numbers

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:


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