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The annual 5281 Awards ceremony is the City and County of Denver’s traditional way of recognizing and honoring city employees who exemplify the STARS values and go above and beyond expectations in their conduct, work ethic, dedication, and above all their passion for the position they hold with the city. In addition to the STARS awards, there is also a Sustainability category that recognizes actions to promote the city’s sustainability goals. The 5281 Awards are a prestigious honor and each year the winners are personally recognized by Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

View the event photo gallery. 


This Year's 5281 Individual and Team Winners

Service to Customers Award
Liz Lightfoot - Department of Safety

Over the past couple of years, the Denver Sheriff Department had some challenging publicity for a variety of reasons. The cause of many of these troubles was due to the lack of staffing. A courageous decision was made by the Budget Management Office, the Executive Director of Safety, and the Mayor's Office in late summer 2015 to start a sheriff academy in January 2016 made up of 100 cadets. Thus the "Mega Class” was born.

Liz Lightfoot led the recruitment effort that resulted in the selection of 109 candidates who were placed in either the January 2016 class or will start in the summer cadet class. The Mega Class is the largest cadet class ever in the 115 year history of DSD and it deserves mentioning that Liz executed this recruitment within a four month period. The speed of this recruitment is unprecedented in the history of the Denver Sheriff Department.

Prior to Liz’s work on this recruitment, it would take an average of 257 days, or 8.5 months to seat a qualified applicant into a Denver Sheriff Department Academy. To reduce this time in order to meet the Mega Class’ recruitment timetable, Liz employed several innovative strategies.

Liz attracted qualified candidates statewide by attending career fairs in places like Colorado Springs, Blackhawk, Grand Junction, and law enforcement agencies throughout the Front Range. Liz represented the positive aspects of the Denver Sheriff Department throughout the state and even via radio stations to attract top talent to become a part of the Mega Class.

Liz successfully leveraged her relationships with our private medical vendors to expedite their physical and psychological tests for these candidates. Liz used her considerable communication skills to impress upon our vendors the importance of working over the holidays and in conducting these important tests in an expedited fashion.

Liz led a team of civilians in using recruiting best practices to identify the quality and quantity of applicants necessary for a class of this size. This transition was uncomfortable at times and would have led an employee of lesser temerity than Liz to quit.

Ultimately, Liz used every skill set and tool at her disposal to build this first ever Mega Class, including courage, tenacity and customer service.

Because of Liz’s efforts, it took 82 days to seat the Mega Class; a reduction of 175 days.

Teamwork Award
Child Support Services, Accounting - Department of Human Services

At the beginning of 2015 the Department of Human Services’ Child Support Services, Accounting team was facing a substantial backlog in reviewing account ledgers for a variety of inherited reasons. Timely ledger reviews are an integral piece of the Child Support Service’s process, as it is important to get the correct amount of child support to families in a timely manner. It also ensures that the non‐custodial parent is paying the correct amount to minimize financial hardship.

Through lean methodologies and efforts to utilize lean practices, the accounting team put together an action plan to review all ledgers out of compliance within ten months. This was in addition to increasing their output of ongoing ledger reviews to ensure no ledger reviews would ever become out of compliance.

Through their incredible hard work and selflessness, the accounting team eliminated the backlog by more than 66% within the first three months and completely eliminated the backlog three months ahead of the target date. The team also increased the number of ledger reviews completed monthly by 64% within eight months.

This increase in production ensured families received their child support monies more effectively and quickly and also ensured that non‐custodial parents did not pay the incorrect amount. The accounting team was able to accomplish this great feat by developing an awareness on how their work could impact, positively or negatively, the families of Denver.

One thing is for certain, their work has clearly positively impacted many families in our city.

Accountability Award
Jessica Naberhaus - Department of Human Services

Jessica Naberhaus has dedicated her time and energy to the Denver County Adult Protection Team for almost 10 years. During this time she has consistently exhibited an incredibly strong work ethic while both serving her clients directly and collaborating with other professionals in the Metro area and nationally to foster development of a comprehensive network of services and community education focused on the subject of elder abuse.

In working with her clients, Jessica has always been a committed advocate for ensuring that her clients receive all available resources while also maintaining them in the least restrictive living environment necessary to keep them safe. When resources do not exist, Jessica does not hesitate to suggest how DHS might go about identifying new resources that will effectively assist her clients. She digs deep, tapping into her strong community network, to find or create through collaborative effort, just the right solution for each individual client.

Jessica’s vast knowledge and passion for Adult Protective Services has led to her being viewed as a subject matter expert at the local, state and even national levels, where she is often asked to serve as a presenter at educational conferences. Jessica has been nominated for and received several awards by community partners for her incredible service to clients.

Jessica demonstrated tremendous ingenuity and exceptional problem solving skills as she worked together with the City Attorney’s Office and the Probate Court to develop a new legal strategy that could be implemented on the client’s behalf in order to ensure the client’s safety. As a result, the financial exploitation of the client ended and the City Attorney’s Office was provided with a blueprint that can be used to protect additional victims in the future.

Jessica’s commitment to serving this population has never wavered, rather it continues to develop as does her knowledge and awareness of the issues affecting our ever growing aging population. She is a tremendous asset to the APS team, the Denver Department of Human Services, and to the City and County of Denver.

Respect for Self and Others Award
Marie Madrid - Denver Fire Department 

Marie Madrid serves in the role of Executive Assistant to the Chief of the Denver Fire Department. Marie helps the Fire Department communicate with their customers every day via phone and email and throughout the year on a variety of special projects.

Every day, Marie helps bridge gaps among uniform and civilian employees and residents. In her position, Marie’s dealings with the public are respectful and tireless, even when confronted with the most difficult of personalities. She can translate “firefighter speak” into everyday language to connect with broader audiences.

The Denver Fire Department honors members who achieve promotions. Marie was instrumental in developing an innovative and efficient system of checklists and templates that allow for clear assignment of tasks to make DFD’s promotion ceremonies run smoothly. Marie considered the distinct perspectives, interests, feelings, and needs of every promotion ceremony participant, from the members who were promoted, to the Executive Director of Safety, to the families and young children who attend the events.

A recent National Fire Prevention Week theme was about how working smoke alarms save lives. Marie’s creativity produced an English and Spanish educational campaign about smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with messaging anyone could relate to: “You wouldn’t drink expired milk. Don’t use an expired smoke detector. Check the date on the back.”

Firefighters are frequently invited to visit schools and libraries to talk about fire safety. As a mom and grandma, Marie knows that kids learn in a variety of ways. She researched children’s books about firefighting and fire safety and purchased the books for firefighters to read to students.

Marie always takes time to listen to her coworkers’ concerns with patience and empathy. Her background in social work is evident as she strives to find solutions that enable our work family to coexist in a positive and productive way. Nobody at DFD Headquarters will ever go hungry or without an afternoon treat as long as our den mother Marie is in the building.

Marie demonstrates respect through patience. She uses her voice to encourage change where it is warranted and strives to do the right thing. She greatly values the work of her colleagues and demonstrates it with simple notes and kind gestures that make the DFD’s work life easier. 

Sustainability Award
Sarah Anderson - Department of Public Works

Sarah Anderson from the Department of Public Works directed the production of Denver's first green infrastructure manual.

Green infrastructure refers to the use of natural systems like bioswales, stream buffers, constructed wetlands, and permeable pavers to handle stormwater runoff, rather than conventional "gray" infrastructure consisting of sewer pipes and pumps. Natural systems are cheaper and also more effective at keeping pollutants out of our streams and rivers during events involving high levels of precipitation. They also produce much more attractive landscaping features.

Although green infrastructure helps make a city more sustainable and resilient, developers are often reluctant to use it, in part because they aren't familiar with it. Sarah's green infrastructure manual removes that obstacle by providing detailed "how to" examples that developers can use. The information in this manual is specifically tailored for the unique combination of soils, hydrology and water laws that we have along the Front Range. It not only provides value to Denver developers but can also be used by developers in other communities. This benefits Denver because when green infrastructure is used by communities upstream from Denver it protects the quality of streams and rivers as they flow down into Denver.

Sarah's green infrastructure manual is a cutting‐edge product that few, if any, other cities have yet. Her work has put Denver in the forefront of cities promoting the switch from gray to green infrastructure and will help us continue to be a more sustainable city.


5281 Awards Nominations - Now Closed!

The 5281 Awards nominations for this year are now closed. Thank you for your nominations!

This year’s awards ceremony took place on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The event was open to city officials, as well as award winners and their guests. 

5281 Awards Categories

Service to Customers - The work performed benefits customers (citizens, employees, officials, vendors, contractors). The goal is to continually exceed expectations by being proactive: identifying meeting needs, working collaboratively to solve problems, developing and maintaining trusting, and constructive relationships.

Teamwork - Works cooperatively with others to achieve team goals. Encourages and facilitates cooperation, pride, trust, and group identity; fosters commitment and team spirit; works with others to achieve goals.

Accountability - Contributes to maintaining the integrity of the organization; displays high standards of ethical conduct and understands the impact of violating these standards on an organization, self, and others; is trustworthy.

Respect for Self & Others - Fosters an environment where creativity, innovation, interpersonal relations and teamwork are valued and appreciated. Whenever possible, actions are made after taking into consideration the distinct perspectives, interests, feelings, and needs of all parties concerned. Employees recognize the need to role model respect for differences that exist within the workplace and demonstrate, through their actions, that differences are an important source of innovation, progress, and interpersonal awareness.

Safety - Creates and maintains a safe work environment by taking action which prevents injury or harm to self, others, equipment and/or property to protect our residents and employees.

Sustainability – This award recognizes individual or team actions that promote achievement of Denver’s 2020 Sustainability Goals in one or more of the following resource areas: air quality, climate, energy, food, health, housing, land use, materials, mobility, water quality, water quantity, and workforce.