Public Service to be Recognized

Public Service to be Recognized

Public Service Recognition Week is set May 5-11.

The theme for this year's celebration is "A Challenge and a Dream: Public Service Today and Tomorrow." Defense Secretary William Cohen will speak at the DoD opening ceremony for the week at the Pentagon May 5. The secretaries of the services and Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will also participate.

"After the government shutdowns in 1995, it became apparent that the public was surprised by the range and scope of services government does provide," said Joan Keston, president of the Public Employees Roundtable, which sponsors the week. While the week celebrates public service, Keston and crew also look on it as a time to educate taxpayers about government service and how it affects all Americans.

"We want to get out the word [to taxpayers] that government employees -- federal, state and local -- are your neighbors," Keston said. "They are a part of your community. In addition to providing public services, they are the soccer coaches or the people you see while out shopping."

Keston said surveys show taxpayers don't necessarily want smaller government; rather, they want more accountable government. Part of the way to hold government accountable is to show taxpayers what government provides.

A big push this year is to get schoolchildren involved in Public Service Recognition Week activities. "Many government agencies have outreach programs to schools," Keston said. "Inviting schoolchildren to Public Service Recognition Week activities is a good way for them to learn a lot about government in a short time."

The Washington area celebration on the National Mall will have Students' Day, May 9. Education Secretary Richard Riley sent letters to schools in the area, inviting them to see the displays on the Mall, Keston said.

The National Mall display will be the largest Public Service Recognition Week event. Vice President Al Gore will kick-off the display during ceremonies May 8. Cohen and other senior DoD officials will tour the Mall site. Officials expect more than 100 agencies to have displays on the Mall.

But the celebration spreads across the country. Federal, state and local governments will place displays at the Madison Square Mall in Hunstville, Ala., May 8.

Austin, Texas, officials plan a full week of activities, and Oklahoma City will host an open house entitled "Public Servants -- At Your Service" May 8.

Keston said bases overseas will celebrate the week.

In addition, the Public Employees Roundtable will present the annual Public Service Excellence Awards. This year's winners are:

  • The Defense Finance and Accounting Center at Columbus, Ohio, for a mentorship program employees created with local children.
  • The Internal Revenue Service for its TELEFILE program allowing certain taxpayers to file their returns over the phone.
  • The Texas Performance Review Program, which evaluates programs to see if they should be kept or modified.
  • Los Angeles and Riverside counties, Calif., for their Greater Avenues for Independence program, a welfare-to-work program aimed at getting people jobs first, then getting them training.
  • Grand Prairie, Texas, for its service excellence program.
  • Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) National Historical Park's PARTNERS program aimed at giving schoolchildren in local Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia schools a lesson in history.

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