During the 19th annual Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Employee Christmas Luncheon, held on December 3 at the Talking Stick Resort Grand Ballroom, more than 1,000 tribal employees gathered to honor one another and celebrate their accomplishments over the past year. The SRPMIC Employee Choir performed holiday songs, and everyone enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner. Raffles and games for the employees were held, and comedian Drew Lacapa made a special appearance, resulting in much laughter.
Community Manager Bryan Meyers, President Diane Enos and Vice-President Martin Harvier welcomed everyone to the luncheon, which also features the eagerly awaited announcement regarding the SRPMIC Employee of the Year. A total of 25 employees were nominated this year; they represent numerous SRPMIC departments and were nominated by their colleagues and/or supervisors.
The announcement of the 2013 Employee of the Year was applauded by all, even though it didn’t quite go as planned. Public Works Director Kirk Beaty submitted a nomination letter for Memorial Hall Manager Deborah Antone, who has worked with Memorial Hall for 10 years. Although she was one of the 25 nominated employees, she didn’t know it, and unfortunately Antone was not present at the luncheon to hear her recognition, as she was busy assisting a Community family preparing for a funeral service.
Antone’s staff attended the luncheon while she stayed at the Memorial Hall. “[The] staff and the director, even Robin Enos from Human Resources contacted me about attending [the luncheon that day], and I wasn’t sure why,” said Antone. “Finally, an employee came back [from the luncheon] so I would be able to go, and I said, ‘Go back and enjoy yourself.’ That’s when I was told that I was nominated [for Employee of the Year].”
Antone asked the director to accept the nomination for her, but he wasn’t going to let her stay at work during this special occasion. Antone finally made her way out of the office, jumped on the freeway—and was delayed in traffic. Finally, she arrived at Talking Stick.
“I got a plate and I sat with employees who looked at me and started congratulating me,” Antone said. “I still had no clue what they were talking about, but then I received the flowers and plaque, and read that I won Employee of the Year.”
After returning to her office, Antone received an email from her boss with the full text of the nomination letter. “I have known Kirk for over 16 years, and for him to nominate me is a great honor,” said Antone.
Describing her work, Antone said she is here to be a service to her Community and its members during their greatest times of need.
“There is beauty and unity I see within my duties, and I always look at the positive end of it and carry on. I am a very spiritual and traditional woman, and it is a great honor to do my job for my people.
“I know what goes into taking care of services for loved ones when they leave us. I want to be able to fill that gap for families in mourning and to let them know we can help here at the Memorial Hall. I always take extra steps, and it always comes from the heart,” said Antone.
Although her job is very difficult and stressful, it keeps her grounded and humbled, she added.
“I would like to thank all of my Memorial Hall staff for showing their dedication to their jobs: the Cemetery Crew, who works very hard, even under the summer sun; and Spencer Fulwilder, my right-hand man. I want to [extend] my honor and recognition to the Memorial Hall and Cemetery Crew staff. Thank you all,” said Antone.
Here is an excerpt from Beaty’s nomination letter:
“Debbie is the example of Community service and involvement. Her entire job is focused to support, assist and meet the needs of the Community and its members. One of Debbie’s primary duties is to assist the family of a deceased Community member with funeral service arrangements. She meets with the grieving family and helps them work through the many details of planning a wake and funeral service.
“This work entails coordination with medical examiners, mortuaries, law enforcement, other Native American communities and various family members of the person who passed. The details can be overwhelming for the grieving family, but Debbie takes that burden off their shoulders and handles those details with compassion and precision. Many times Debbie is called in the middle of the night, and she will meet with families in their homes where a loved one has passed away.
“Debbie possesses the leadership qualities that exemplify an outstanding employee. She is not only a manager with supervisory responsibilities, but she is also recognized as an expert in her field by members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and by Native American communities throughout the state and the Southwest.”
The first Employee of the Year luncheon was held in 1995; the award that year went to Tony Pesch of the Salt River Fire Department.
Employee of the Year
Deborah Antone, Memorial Hall Manager
Mike Andl—Assistant IT Director, Infrastructure & Operations
Alex Begay—Home Care Assistant III
Sylvia Castillon—Compliance Manager, [CRA]
William Daly—Director, Department of Corrections
Anna Damian—People Soft Functional Supply Chain Analyst, [IT]
Mary Descheeny—Council Recorder
Deborah DeVolld—Assistant Education Program Manager
Dominic Gomez—Staff Attorney, Legal Services
Paul Johnston—Food Service Manager
John Kimble—Sergeant, Department of Corrections
Lisa Loya—Accounting Clerk III, Department of Education
Mervin Monte—Lead Building Maintenance Worker
Bienvenido Morel—Sergeant, Salt River Police Department
Robin Mowers—Accounting Supervisor, General Ledger
Juan Nieto—Program Coordinator, Community Development Department
Patty Powers—Employee Services Manager
Connie Reifschneider—Accountant, Tax Collection & Reporting
Salvatore Riena—Recreation Maintenance Worker I
LaRue Smith—Executive Secretary, Salt River High School
Jose Tavena III—Officer, Salt River Police Department
Chemina Tyree—Payroll Manager
Mary Weston—Social Worker II, Senior Services Care Giver
Verna Williams—Shift Supervisor, Public Safety Communications