Staff with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources were honored Tuesday with three of the 2011 Governor’s Awards for Excellence, the highest honor state employees can receive in North Carolina for dedicated service to the state.
Gov. Bev Perdue honored Lewis Ledford, director of the state Division of Parks and Recreation, and Alvin Braswell, deputy director for operations at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, and the North Carolina Zoo. The three awards marked the most any single organization received at this year’s ceremony, which was held at the North Carolina Museum of History.
“Day in and day out, Lewis, Alvin and the staff at the North Carolina Zoo go above and beyond the call of duty,” said Dee Freeman, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “These awards not only honor those individuals for their outstanding efforts, but are further evidence of the devotion the entire staff in the department have to serve the citizens of North Carolina.”
The award, created in 1982 by Gov. Jim Hunt, honors state employees for outstanding achievements in one of five areas –Human Relations, Innovations, Outstanding State Government Service, Public Service, and Safety and Heroism. Tuesday’s ceremony recognized 12 recipients. Ledford and Braswell received awards for Outstanding State Government Service while the North Carolina Zoo was recognized for Innovations. David Jones, the zoo’s director, accepted the award Tuesday.
Ledford, a 35-year veteran of the state parks system, began his career as an entry-level park ranger and assumed the director’s post in 2003. As director, he has been instrumental in developing partnerships with conservation organizations, landowners and government agencies that have helped make North Carolina’s parks system one of the nation’s best. During his tenure, the state parks system has grown by more than 40,000 acres and created new state natural areas and seven new state parks. Those include two North Carolina icons at Chimney Rock and Grandfather Mountain. The award also recognized Ledford for developing an economic analysis of the state parks, creating a central reservations system as well as a new mobile phone application for visitors and putting in place sustainable building practices at numerous new facilities.
Braswell’s career includes 37 years with the state Museum of Natural Sciences. He started in 1974 as a research curator and has co-authored a major text book, Reptiles of North Carolina. Braswell later directed the museum’s research laboratory and in 2007 was named to his current position overseeing security, visitor services, personnel and facility operations at all three museum facilities in Raleigh. For the past three years, he has served as the project manager for construction of the museum’s new 80,000-square-foot wing, the Nature Research Center, which is due to open next spring.
The North Carolina Zoo was honored for its innovative conservation efforts, which are central to the zoo’s mission. Those innovations include developing ways to protect the park’s resources with a recycling drop-off and a composting site that has saved more than $160,000 each year, mostly in fees that would’ve ordinarily gone to dispose of waste at the landfill. The zoo has also started programs to use organic instead of chemical fertilizers, monitor water quality to prevent pollution, and reduce energy usage by installing solar panels in three picnic areas.