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Health Department Honors Employees for Excellence

Apr 7, 2017

TACOMA, Wash. – Public health often happens quietly and behind the scenes. For the past 20 years, the American Public Health Association has put public health in the spotlight during the first week of April for National Public Health Week. The theme for the week: Healthiest Nation in One Generation, by 2030. To celebrate, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department recognizes employees who help to protect people against diseases and keep food, water, and the environment safe.

Earlier this week, the Health Department recognized these employees who excel in their commitment to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County:

Jacques Colon, Health Equity Coordinator—Director’s Award

Colon’s outstanding leadership, courage, and tact have helped the Department embrace health equity as a guiding principle for our public health work. He thinks at a macro policy level but can translate this into helpful steps employees can take to make a difference. Colon sits on equity panels, gives presentations and trainings, locally and nationally.

Food and Community Safety Team—Deputy Director’s Award

The Food and Community Safety Team makes sure when you eat in Pierce County, it’s a safe experience. Each day the team provides education to hundreds of local food workers. In 2016, they completed 7,744 inspections of local food establishments. They interview people sickened from food or concerned about something in a restaurant to find any cause of illness and work with food establishments to make improvements.

Deborah Pederson-Buckwald, Deputy Registrar, Vital Records–Outstanding Employee Award

Pederson-Buckwald is a self-starter and pitches in to help team members—all so Vital Records can provide great customer service. One customer said: “… customer service, particularly in municipalities, is often dreadful. Honestly, I’d rather go to the dentist. That’s why I think it’s especially important to recognize Deborah for her professionalism, friendliness, and making the extra effort … you have a treasure with Deborah. Thank you!”

Brien Aguilar, Administrative Assistant, Communicable Disease Division—Innovation/Bright Idea Award

Aguilar innovates with data. His work improved case management in the Department’s HIV/STD program and enhanced the use of the Medical Reserve Corp, hepatitis, and refugee databases. These improvements allow the Department to pull data for billing services, measure performance and identify potential grant opportunities.

Amanda Peters, Food and Community Safety program, Environmental Health Division—Leader/Mentor Award

Peters knows the key ingredients food operators need to make sure Pierce County is a safe place to eat—at the fair, a farmer’s market, or a restaurant. She inspires her team and builds them up. Even when evaluating work, she encourages inspectors to reach decisions independently. She also builds teamwork among food inspectors and encourages strong communication.

Ruth Wolbert-Neff, Treatment Services program, Strengthening Families—Community Ambassador Award

Wolbert-Neff is a life-saving advocate for pregnant and new moms in the Department’s Treatment Services program. She’s with them on their recovery journey and speaks on their behalf to Child Protective Services and Court Appointed Special Advocates, judges, nurses and others who affect patients’ lives. Her outreach efforts help to break the stigma of addiction and improve our communities. Her work benefits—even saves—the lives of pregnant and new moms.

Esther Beaumier, Waste Management program, Environmental Health Division—Unsung Hero Award

Beaumier works with businesses to recycle more of their waste and send less to landfills and out into the environment. She works with the Local Source Control Partnership and South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District on important efforts that support a healthy community.

Krystle Amundson, Administrative Assistant, Environmental Health Division—Ray of Sunshine Award

Amundson lights up the Department with great customer service and a positive and cheerful attitude. She participates in Department workgroups and encourages voluntarism in the community. She is kind, compassionate, and a great listener. She cares about the Department’s mission, her community, and her coworkers.

Christine Mason-Frogge, Vital Records, Administrative Division—Customer Service Award

According to her customers, Mason-Frogge has a way of untangling complicated processes and making them easier for Vital Records customers. She is respectful, organized, efficient and always goes the extra mile, especially with non-English speaking customers. She finds interpreters when needed and offers translated handouts for frequently asked questions. One customer said, “Your office is a shining example that government work can be as good if not better than private enterprises. I am very thankful and positively impressed by your work.”

Accreditation Team—Outstanding Team Award

Under the leadership of Wanda Williams, the Accreditation Team helped the Department achieve national accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board in May 2016. Over two years, team members collected hundreds of documents for 97 PHAB measures, responded to reviewers’ questions about those documents, trained staff to be ready for a site visit, and responded to site visitors’ questions during their March 2016 visit. By earning accreditation, the Department demonstrated an effectiveness to protect and improve the health of the Pierce County community. The Department is one of fewer than 200 health departments in the country to reach this goal.

See a video that features winners and finalists from this year’s ceremony on our YouTube channel at At the event, the Department also recognized 49 employees with service longevity awards for five to 30 years.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at

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