UH President announces nominees for 2007 Governor’s Awards for Distinguished State Service — Employee of the Year, Manager of the Year and TEAM Excell

University of Hawaiʻi
Shannan Yoshimura, (808)956-8643
Office of Human Resources
Courtney Baum, (808) 956-9083
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Jul 31, 2007

PEARL CITY, HI- University of Hawaiʻi President David McClain announced to the Board of Regents at the July meeting, the University‘s nominees for the 2007 Governor‘s Awards for Distinguished State Service. The awards are part of the State‘s employee recognition and incentive program administered by the Department of Human Resources Development. The three awards: Employee of the Year, Manager of the Year and Team of Excellence Award of Merit (TEAM), are designed to honor the State‘s executive branch employees and managers who exemplify the highest caliber of public service and dedication to serving the people of Hawai'i.

The University‘s nominee for Employee of the Year is Milton Yamasaki, Agricultural Research Technician at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), Hawaiʻi County. Yamasaki oversees five West Hawaiʻi county research stations as a farm manager, ensuring the well-being of a herd of more than 200 head of beef cattle and providing 24-hour security. In the aftermath of the October 2006 earthquake, Yamasaki immediately began addressing research station needs at Mealani, Lālāmiko, Hāmākua, Kona and Kainaliu. He has been instrumental in the market expansion of Hawaiʻi grass-raised beef and is one of the founders of A Taste of the Hawaiian Range Food Festival, an annual food festival and premier agriculture-tourism event on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.

Representing the University for the Manager of the Year award is Gene Awakuni, Chancellor of the University of Hawaiʻi- West Oahu (UHWO). He was selected for his work in facilitating the transition of UHWO toward its new campus and a full, four-year curriculum. Chancellor Awakuni has moved the development of the new campus further in the past two years, than it has been moved in the previous three decades. Awakuni works at all levels of both physical and academic planning for the new UHWO campus at Kapolei and has been instrumental in the addition of the Career Development and Job Placement Center, an expanded Writing Center, and a Director of Assessment, among many other new functions and positions.

This year‘s TEAM award nominees are Roxanne Bega, Oahu; Theresa Fernandez, Maui; Alicia "Kehau" Keller, Oahu; Jodi Leslie, Kona, Hawaiʻi; Linda Martinez, Hilo, Hawaiʻi. All are program assistants in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). They are nominated in recognition of the team's collaborative efforts, outstanding work and significant contributions in providing basic nutrition, food safety, and family resource management. The program services limited-resource families with school-aged children within the communities where they reside. The USDA-funded EFNEP is housed in CTAHR‘s Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at UH Mānoa.

The 2006-07 year was particularly noteworthy for the EFNEP team as, of over 400 families served, more than 80 percent showed improvement in more than one nutrition practice, including preparing food without salt, reading nutrition labels and/or ensuring their children received a healthy breakfast.

University nominees receive a $300 cash award and personal recognition by the Board of Regents. They will be also honored at an October 19th award ceremony and reception where Governor Linda Lingle will announce the state-wide winners chosen by representatives from the Department of Human Resources Development and the Governor‘s Office.

In the past two years, UH employees were honored as State Employee of the Year: John Awakuni, Fiscal Officer of Library Sciences in 2005 and Charles Nelson, CTAHR Agricultural Equipment Development Working Supervisor in 2006.