At the annual convention at Lake Murray, the OPEA recognized groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. The annual OPEA Awards Luncheon was held Saturday, August 29th.
“The awards we are giving today cover a broad range of activities necessary for OPEA to be successful,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “No award is more important than the other; they are all representative of a collective effort that must be made to make this organization successful.
“Simply being an OPEA member is a testament to our success. Without the 10,000 state employees and retirees who have made the decision to join this organization, we would not be here today. We continue to be proud that we are an advocate, a force and a fighter on behalf of state employees here in Oklahoma.
“For those individuals who have gone above and beyond, we believe it is important to show the Association’s appreciation for their efforts. That’s why we have these special awards,” Zearley said.
Awards given were as follows:
Art Jackson Agency Chapter of the Year: OESC Tulsa Chapter
The OESC Tulsa chapter has continued to set the standard for chapters in OPEA. Over the last year the chapter has raised its membership by 25 percent. The chapter was successful in leading the efforts to get additional funding in the agency, saving hundreds of jobs. The chapter has met locally on a regular basis, met with local legislators and held social events to extend fellowship to families and not just the work environment.
The OESC Tulsa chapter is an example of excellence that reflects credit on OPEA, the chapter leadership and state employment.
OPEA Volunteer of the Year: Sharita Ramsey, Oklahoma Tax Commission
This is the second time Ramsey has won this award. She has given selflessly of her time to attend OPEA and OPEAPAC functions; she has represented OPEA at events with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Black Caucus and numerous legislative events. She is always the first to volunteer for service during “State Employee Appreciation Week,” displaying her servant’s heart. Ramsey is an amazing OPEA leader, state employee and friend and reflects great credit on OPEA.
Gaines Stout Leadership Award: Haley Faulkenberry, DHS; Randy Lopez, DOC
Faulkenberry has been an OPEA member for the past two years. During that time, she has been an active leader in promoting OPEA in her DHS office and was instrumental in helping form the OPEA Crossroads Chapter. Faulkenberry has served as a chapter officer before being elected as the DHS Council Chair last year.
Over the past year, she has provided leadership on a variety of issues related to the DHS including budgetary concerns, legislation and a court case involving child welfare. Faulkenberry’s involvement in the Association includes meeting with DHS Director Howard Hendrick on several occasions as well as meeting numerous times with legislative leaders during session of legislation that affected state employees. She has volunteered her leadership to attend numerous recruiting meetings around the state and is always ready to step forward on behalf of OPEA to assist in any way she can.
Sgt. Lopez is a correctional officer at OSP with over 16 years of service. Lopez has been the Chapter President for the OSP Chapter for the past three years involving the chapter in a successful campaign to draw attention to critical staffing needs inside the maximum security prison and help recruit and retain staff.
Under Lopez’s leadership the chapter united the employees of OSP and the business community with a “STAND TOGETHER FOR SAFETY” campaign featuring employees wearing green wristbands showing solidarity along with the business community displaying green signs in their store fronts. Lopez was able to gain support from over 20 local businesses as well as the local press which featured the struggle in nearly a half-dozen articles. Lopez also led a meeting with Governor Henry and Treasurer Scott Meacham which helped resolve many of the issues at OSP.
Lopez has been instrumental in offering support to employees in the form of grievance assistance. There are very few employees that know the grievance process and agency policy as well as Lopez. He is clearly respected by all the employees at OSP as well as the administration for his tenacity.
When two female employees were forced to submit to a strip search which violated policy, Lopez through OPEA exposed the incident which resulted in national attention being given to a degrading policy. Because of the resulting publicity, the agency is reviewing its policy.
Lopez also represents OPEA on the Charitable Campaign Committee and has represented OPEA with a national corrections organization.
OPEA Legislator of the Year: Representative Randy Terrill
For OPEA to be successful, we must have legislators at the Capitol willing to champion our cause. Each year we select a member of the legislature who is always there for state employees…not just providing “lip service” but going the extra mile. This year we had several nominees for this award and they are: Senators John Sparks, Clark Jolley and Anthony Sykes. Representatives Lisa Billy, Scott Inman, Jason Murphey, Scott Martin, David Dank, Earl Sears, George Faught, Chuck Hoskin and Mark McCullough. Only one legislator could be chosen and that was Representative Randy Terrill (see sidebar article and photo).
OPEA Journalist of the Year: Tim Talley, Associated Press
The Journalist of the Year is given to a person who reports and promotes the value of state employees and their issues. Talley is a veteran reporter for the AP, and a previous recipient of OPEA’s “Journalist of the Year” award.
Several reporters, both from broadcast and print, were considered for this honor. However, Talley’s fair and comprehensive coverage about state employee issues made him the clear choice. His reporting is concise, unbiased, and most important of all, factual.