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SPRINGFIELD -- Each year, the Department of Agriculture holds a holiday luncheon to honor all employees and recognize a select few for their outstanding service.

This year the department's legislative liaison, Laura Sinclair of Petersburg, received the top honor, the Director's Achievement Award. The award goes to someone who has achieved excellence in his/her job over the past year.

Sinclair worked extremely hard this year to get 11 out of 12 of the department's legislative initiatives passed through both chambers and on to the governor for consideration, according to a press release.

According to her nomination, "Passing a single bill is exceptional, passing 11 is extraordinary." During Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair, the governor visited the IDOA building to sign these bills.

Dale Hook of Millington, who works in the Bureau of Meat & Poultry Inspection, was awarded the Ag Ambassador Award. The Ag Ambassador Award is given to an employee who has improved the general perception of the Department. Hook was so generous and passionate that when a new inspector needed training and the hotel would not direct bill the department, he placed the charges on his personal credit card to await reimbursement from the state.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture's Fellowship or Assistant Director's Award is given to someone who brings enthusiasm, energy, efforts, and goodwill to the workplace each day. Stephanie Hardy of Sherman in the Bureau of Illinois State Fair embodies this, the press release stated. Since beginning work in the non-fair events section, she has caught on quickly and always greets everyone with a smile.

Valerie Booth of Sherman was honored with the Ron King Award for Efficiency. This is given to an individual or bureau for efforts to increase efficiency at the department. Booth is respected by her co-workers for her "attention to detail and organizational skills," according to her nomination. She has worked diligently for months on the implementation and correction of the new USA Plants System for the Bureau of Environmental Programs. Her feedback and work on the program has proved invaluable.

The Commitment to Quality Award is given to an individual or bureau that worked to improve the quality of a program, service, or official function. The Bureau of Budget & Fiscal Services was awarded this for their work to convert the department's accounting programs into a new statewide enterprise program, ERP.

Also recognized during the luncheon were those employees with landmark years of state service including 35, 30, 25, 20, and 10 years. A complete list follows:

25 years

Donald Ruckman, Altamont

20 years

Richard Davis, Ashmore

David Dhom, Newton


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