ISAP 2015 Winners

Posted on Sep 10, 2014 in Main

EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR:  Mary Tashiro, Quarantine Operations Supervisor, Animal Industry Division. 

Mary Tashiro has been with the Department for only 4 years however her impact has been significant. She holds the challenging position of overseeing all operations dedicated to Animal Care and facility management for the Animal Quarantine Station. She comes with decades of experience dealing with companion animal care and boarding facility management. Over the last year she has weathered turbulent changes with grace and professionalism.

Working in a large holding facility that focuses on the care of dogs and cats is extremely challenging. The dogs and cats have their own personalities and require that caretakers and staff be flexible and creative in their approach to their daily care.

An example of how Mary has made improvements in services in the last year include the performance of a study which compared the different types of dog food available and different price points. Due to individual reactions dogs may have to their housing facilities, some high energy breeds will constantly move despite being offered a well-balanced diet. The result can be weight loss as the number of calories consumed cannot keep pace with the exercise. Mary worked with her caretaker teams to identify different types of high calorie foods that would compensate for the higher energy needs of certain individuals without significantly increasing the volume of food the dogs are eating. If dogs consume too large volume this can contribute to significant intestinal diseases in certain breeds. She compared three types of dog food. The current maintenance diet offered, a moderately priced high calorie food and a premium performance diet with the same calorie content as the moderately priced high calorie food but labeled to give better performance. The result was that there was not a significant difference between the premium dog food and the moderately priced dog food. By doing this study she saved Station operations money on the cost of food while accommodating the unique needs of certain individual animals.

In addition Mary continues to maintain a calming presence both with the employees and the pet owners.  She possesses a varied skill set able to counsel and coach employees about animal care in specific situations such as dogs that are having difficulty adapting to housing conditions with the goal of maintain the health and safety of the dogs while at the same time showing empathy with pet owners while remaining firm about operation rules. She conducts tours for pet owners that are planning to have their pets housed at the Animal Quarantine Station and coordinates the activities of the maintenance staff and groundskeeping staff.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR:  Becky Azama, PPC Branch manager (TA), of the Plant Industry Division.

In October, Becky took the role of PPC Branch Manager.  She has faced significant challenges since she assumed the role of TA. We’ve had new pests (bagrada bug), old pests appearing in new places (coffee berry borer), and the old pests that we’ve been struggling with for a while (little fire ant and coqui); vacant positions; federal funding not being spent; federal projects not being worked on and so much more.

Add to it the low morale of the branch and the task was fairly daunting. It is difficult to express Becky’s success in a quantifiable way. Her success has been based on her intangible qualities foremost of which is her genuine concern for the Branch. She wants people to be happy at work. She wants people to have the tools and training to be effective at their job. She wants people to feel appreciated and valued.

It is these desires on her part that has been so instrumental to turning things around for PPC.  Becky makes sure we have what we need. It’s not unusual for Becky to ask, “What do you need?” or “what can I do to help?” In fact, it’s probably the most frequently posed question. It is also a sincere question and Becky will work hard to make sure staff has what it needs. It could be something simple like a piece of software all the way to facility improvements because the termites have eaten things away. Becky is not afraid to take care of things herself and throwing herself into the project to make sure staff has what we need to get the job done.

Becky appreciates staff. Everyone, from 89-day hires to entomologists on the verge of retirement, is important and of value to Becky. She is quick to be a cheerleader, telling people when a job is well-done, encouraging staff, applauding staff, and in general being the biggest support of the program. She is equally quick to take responsibility if things do not go as planned. This has created an atmosphere of engagement by staff, where suggestions are made, taken seriously, fostered, and come to light.

At the same time, Becky never forgets that the Chemical Mechanical Section is grossly understaffed with only three people covering four counties. She is not afraid to go out to do little fire ant surveys and treatments, meet with community groups or organize and lead surveys for coffee berry borer. She is quick to charge into action if there is a hint or suggestion of a new pest. Even while doing this, however, she is quick to return to doing the work of the manager. Filling out B 1 requests, addressing staff needs and generally trying to navigate the Branch in a forward direction.

These accomplishments may seem simple but they are, nevertheless profound. PPC is a staff filled with passionate people who believe in their jobs and work hard at fulfilling the mission.

TEAM OF THE YEAR:  ARMD Waimanalo Irrigation Emergency Maintenance Team.  Gordon Chong, Michael Hornberger, Roy Hasegawa, Glenn Okamoto, Keoni Akau, and Randal Chang

The Waimanalo Irrigation System has a nominal crew of four workers. Since October of 2013, only two of the positions have been filled. This shortage of manpower has led to only critical daily operational needs being completed to meet the program’s mission to ensure irrigation water to the farmers. Regular maintenance was deferred, eventually leading to the almost complete blockage of the four and a half mile open ditch system and vegetative growth so thick that the access trails were indistinguishable from the surrounding forest.

Staff working on a capital improvement project in the valley expressed concerns about the condition and volunteered to begin clearing it up knowing ahead of time that it was almost an insurmountable, back breaking, hard labor task, but also realizing that to contract out would cost well into the six figures, money they knew the program didn’t have. Staff members were asked if they would like to volunteer to help with the cleanup and these Team members all accepted with no reservations at all, fully realizing that this exhausting task was in addition to their other duties which they would remain responsible for. Rotating teams were created, working around previous individual commitments, and daily work began at the end of April 2015. All clearing is being done by hand using shovels, rakes, pitchforks, machetes, lopping shears, chainsaws and weedwackers. The working conditions are extremely adverse, very humid and the team was often subject to inclement weather, working in areas with uneven terrain, mosquito and other insect swarms, and hazardous conditions (steep cliffs and narrow trails). When returning at the end of the day, these guys are obviously tired and covered head to toe in mud. INSPITE of this, not one complaint has ever been heard nor has anyone ever grumbled about their next turn. If anything, this seems to have bonded them together by enduring this effort as a team and they are clearly proud of what they are accomplishing. Often, several of them are found at the end of the day comparing “fishing stories”. Their results are indisputable:  the ditch is almost free flowing, the banks are cut back and cleared, and the trails are accessible once again.

Sustained Superior Performance Award:  Shaun Wilcox of the Agricultural Resources Management Division.

Shaun Wilcox has been with the Agricultural Resource Management Division (ARMD) – Oahu Irrigation System since June 2010. This is currently a four-man crew that operates, maintains and services a total of approximately 110 irrigation customers within the Kahuku and Waimanalo Agricultural Parks and Waimanalo Farm Lot Subdivision. Over the past few years, the Waimanalo crew has experienced severe turnover due to retirements, separations and injuries placing enormous pressure on the remaining personnel to meet its obligations to its water customers. The four-man crew has been operating with only two men since October 2013 and recent circumstances have left Shaun as the ONLY employee left. Shaun has met all of the challenges during these trying times in a professional manner with a very positive attitude and demeanor, to such an extent that he has successfully performed a temporary assignment as the crew leader for over a year. Although the division promotes personal health and safety, many times Shaun has found himself working alone deep in the Maunawili Valley, cleaning and maintaining the Maunawili Ditch System which conveys surface waters to the Waimanalo Reservoir.

Throughout the past several years, and with all of the challenges of staff shortages, inclement weather, constant coordination with contractors and maintenance and servicing of water customers, Shaun, in addition to his duties and responsibilities, has performed at a very high level and is deserving of being recognized.


Sustained Superior Performance Award:  Marci Okahara of the Agricultural Development Division. 

Marci is a Secretary II in the Agricultural Development Division.  In her capacity, she handles tasks that involve detailed work, often deals with last minutes requests and impending deadlines.  She often is required to multi-task and uses initiative to complete these tasks.  Often, the work requires collaboration with other agencies, divisions and/or branches.  But she gets the job done and always has a pleasant demeanor.