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Florida Government Productivity Awards

Each year, Florida’s Government Productivity Awards (formally Florida TaxWatch Productivity Awards), honor state employees for their achievements in areas such as process improvement, technology integration, and creative problem-solving. Award winners are presented with cash awards and commemorative plaques. In addition to recognizing and rewarding excellence in productivity, the awards highlight individuals and teams who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to finding innovative solutions that enhance efficiency and effectiveness in public service.

The program is a major government improvement initiative co-sponsored by Florida TaxWatch, The Florida Council of 100, the state of Florida and corporate, individual and philanthropic contributors. Government Productivity Awards (formally Florida TaxWatch Productivity Awards) are presented annually by Florida TaxWatch to honor state employees throughout Florida. These awards showcase success stories but also inspire a culture of continuous improvement within the public sector, by celebrating those who go above and beyond in their pursuit of excellence and efficiency. This year’s nominations will be submitted to the Government Productivity Awards committee by the University of Florida.

2023 Florida Government Productivity Award Winner

This year, cash awards were presented to 10 individuals and teams from across the state for their innovation and productivity improvements. Since 1989, award winners have produced more than $10 billion in cost savings/avoidance or efficiency gains for Florida taxpayers and businesses. The 2023 winning team from the from the University of Florida was recognized at a ceremony held in Tallahassee on December 6. 

College of Journalism and Communications

WUFT / Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN)    

Randy Wright, Executive Director

Jeff George, Chief Meteorologist

Megan Borowski, Senior Meteorologist

(L-R): Michael Simas, President & CEO, the Florida Council of 100, Hub Brown, Dean, UF College of Journalism and Communications,  Jeff George, Chief Meteorologist, Megan Borowski, Senior Meteorologist,  Randy Wright, Executive Director, Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch.

WUFT/ FPREN or the  Florida Public Radio Emergency Network  team was awarded this year’s Florida Government Productivity award. As a first of its kind in Florida and across America, “FPREN”‘s unique operational model centralizes the creation of public safety and emergency messaging for critical events like hurricanes, tropical storms and other life-threatening situations, allowing for millions of Floridians to receive important warnings, advisories and updates from the FPREN studios. Housed in a state-of-the-art Storm Center operation at WUFT, in the UF College of Journalism and Communications, FPREN quickly made an impact through providing live and ongoing coverage of significant hurricane, tropical storm, flooding and wildfire events for the entire state of Florida through coverage on radio, television, digital and social media and via the Florida Storms mobile app.

University of Florida’s media properties provide public safety and emergency messaging content to every public broadcast station in Florida, allowing those stations to provide unique and powerful impact in their local communities that has never been possible before. This is a 24/7/365 service that is “always on” and on watch for the citizens of the state of Florida.  Through the success of the initiative, FPREN was expanded to provide the same public safety content for the state of South Carolina via South Carolina ETV and South Carolina Public Radio, which provides statewide news and information via the network of broadcast television and radio stations.

Additionally,  the WUFT/FPREN team has received national recognition. This team was awarded the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Community Lifeline award, which recognizes public broadcasters for extraordinary service to their communities during local emergencies, natural disasters or other significant safety events.  

FPREN team in WUFT’s StormCenter as 2023’s Hurricane Idalia as the category 4 hurricane moved across north Florida.  FPREN’s coverage served as one of the very few sources for live information in the Big Bend region of Florida as Idalia made landfall due to the widespread power, internet and cell phone outages.  FPREN’s live hurricane coverage was carried on WUFT-FM and WFSU-FM, providing a critically important lifeline for residents in the path of the hurricane.

FPREN team in WUFT’s StormCenter in Weimer Hall during 2022’s Hurricane Ian just prior to the storm making landfall.  At this time FPREN’s live broadcasts were being carried by WGCU-TV/FM, Ft. Myers-Naples, Florida and various other FPREN stations in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Orlando, Miami and other stations across Florida providing live coverage of this extraordinary event.  FPREN’s coverage lasted for days and benefitted millions of Floridians who depended on the public safety information being provided by UF’s media properties.

Congratulations to the College of Journalism and Communications, WUFT and the FPREN team!

2022 FLORIDA TAXWATCH PRODUCTIVITY AWARD WINNERS

This year, cash and plaque awards were presented to 134 individuals and teams from across the state for their innovation and productivity improvements. Since 1989, award winners have produced more than $10 billion in cost savings/avoidance or efficiency gains for Florida taxpayers and businesses.

The following 2022 Individual, Small Team, and Large Team Agency winners from the University of Florida were recognized at a private ceremony held at the Harn Museum of Art on February 7.

2022 Individual Productivity Award Winner

Facilities Services

Tyler Engel, Maintenance Superintendent

Plaque Award, Service

(L-R): Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Gregg Clarke, Senior Director of Facilities Operations, Tyler Engel, Maintenance Superintendent, Jeff Wieners, Vice President of Sales, AvMed, TaxWatch Sponsor, Melissa S. Curry, UFHR Vice President.

After receiving a challenge to complete elevator modifications, without additional funding, Tyler, was successfully able to cut project cost by almost half, a savings of $250,000, through direct bidding and contract negotiation. Elevator modification projects typically involve, general contractors, architectures, and engineers. By taking on these roles and with the guidance of UF Procurement, Tyler successfully direct bid two elevators at the UF Health Science Campus. Using this process, Tyler was able to complete four full elevator modifications instead of two, saving the University almost $500,000.

Annual Cost Savings Estimate: $500,000

2022 TaxWatch Productivity Small Team Award Winners

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS)

Family Guide to Canvas Translation Team
Trysh Travis, Gillian Lord, Benjamin Hebblethwaite, Stephan Kory, Quinn Hassen

Cash Award, Quality

Front Row (L-R): Jeff Wieners, Vice President of Sales, AvMed, TaxWatch Sponsor, Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Trysh Travis, Associate Dean, Gillian Lord, Associate Dean, Benjamin Hebblethwaite, Associate Professor, Stephan Kory, Assistant Professor,  Melissa S. Curry, UFHR Vice President, Curtis A. Reynolds, Vice President, Business Affairs.

During the 2020-21 school year, Alachua County schools shifted to remote learning due to Covid-19 impacts. To support remote learning, the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) was used in Alachua County school districts for the first time. This new way of learning presented many challenges for students, parents, classroom teachers, and administrators.

The Family Guide to Canvas Translation Team’s goal was to ease the burden on Alachua County parents, administrators, and classroom teachers during the darkest days of the pandemic. Their efforts resulted in the creation of A Family Guide to Canvasto help parents understand the technology. This team of UF faculty, quickly identified another need within the Alachua County district, 800 families for whom English is second language (ESOL). This team continued their work by translating the guide into the most common foreign languages found in our district, including Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Arabic, and Chinese. Through the partnership with the Alachua County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, this guide was distributed to assist all parents, with the particular concern for the 800 ESOL families in our district and the professionals who work with them.

The Family Guide to Canvas Translation Team significantly improved the quality of life for parents in Alachua County. Along with the gratitude shared by parents, faculty members in the UF College of Education who specialize in ESOL shared, “This Guide was the only ESOL-specific resource available to teachers and staff, and to students and parents during COVID impacted remote learning.”

The Office of Teaching and Technology

Brian Marchman, Chris Newsom, Rabya Hein

Cash Award, Service

(L-R): Jeff Wieners, Vice President of Sales, AvMed, TaxWatch Sponsor, Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Brian K. Marchman, Director and Superintendent, P.K. Young, Chris Newsom, Assistant Director of Academic Support Services, Rabya Hein, Operations Specialist, Melissa S. Curry, UFHR Vice President, Curtis A. Reynolds, Vice President, Business Affairs.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the number of enrollments for online courses at the University of Florida increased by 291 percent. Due to the emergency nature of the situation, there was no existing funding for on-campus courses to utilize when they were forced to suddenly transition to a remote format.

To address this problem, UF’s Office of Distance Learning, under the leadership of Dr. Brian Marchman, engaged in emergency renegotiation with two online proctoring solution providers, ultimately identifying one that was based on annual enrollment usage, rather than a per-course or per-exam basis.

This innovative strategy led to a successfully renegotiated contract, resulting in total savings of over $1 million for online proctoring costs that year. It also avoided substantial cost overruns during the pandemic.

Annual Cost Savings Estimate: $1,142,103

Facilities Services

Jack Locke, John McClain, Sam Shuff, Ron Lee

Plaque Award, Service

Front Row (L-R): Jeff Wieners, Vice President of Sales, AvMed, TaxWatch Sponsor, Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, John McClain, Pipe/Steamfitter, Sam Shuff, Pipe/Steamfitter, Ronald Lee, Pipe/Steamfitter, Jack Locke, Maintenance Specialist, Curtis A. Reynolds, Vice President, Business Affairs, Melissa S. Curry, UFHR Vice President.

2nd Row (L-R): Gregg Clarke, Senior Director of Facilities Operations.

After Jack and his team identified the need to replace over a dozen building boilers, in locations that ranged from the UF campus in Gainesville, to Eglin Air Force Base in Shalimar, Florida, Jack’s team saved $400,000 by installing the boilers themselves. Without additional funding to complete the project, Jack worked with the boiler vendor to secure training and certifications for his team, which allowed him direct purchase and self-install boilers using his project oversight. The efforts of this team resulted in significant annual cost savings to the university and future cost savings through the increased efficiencies of the new boilers, which have a 20-year life span.

Annual Cost Savings Estimate: $400,000

Facilities Services

Chris Keane, Marty Adkins, Carlos Loria

Plaque Award, Technology

Front Row (L-R): Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Carlos Loria, IT Analyst III, Chris Keane, Maintenance Specialist, Marty Adkins, Security/Fire Alarm Systems, Curtis A. Reynolds, Vice President, Business Affairs, Melissa S. Curry, UFHR Vice President.

2nd Row (L-R): Gregg Clarke, Senior Director of Facilities Operations, Jeff Wieners, Vice President of Sales, AvMed, TaxWatch Sponsor.

By the end of 2022, AT&T planned to end its copper phone line business. This would have impacted every fire alarm on the university’s campus, which relied upon copper phone lines.

This change would have increased the cost of lines exponentially – from $20 per line every month to $600 per line every month.

Instead of simply accepting these increased expenses, the UF Facilities Service Team converted the existing copper phone lines into radio frequency devices. This means UF no longer has to connect to AT&T phone lines for fire alarms or anything else, and the university won’t have any recurring charges to AT&T whatsoever.

By switching to this new system, all UF departments, divisions, and auxiliaries will save $600 a month, which means the university will save more than $2 million every year.

Annualized cost savings: $2,050,000

2022 TaxWatch Productivity Large Team Agency Award Winners

Kathryn “Ali” Leaphart and the Facilities Services Team

Anthony Androlevich, Jonathan “Kane” Powell, Leon Minter, Joey Shaw

Plaque Award, Large Team/Agency

Front Row (L-R): Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Kathryn “Ali” Leaphart, Maintenance Superintendent, Leon Minter, Maintenance Supervisor, Johnathan “Kane” Powell, Maintenance Supervisor, Anthony Androlevich, Utilities Operator Supervisor, Curtis A. Reynolds, Vice President, Business Affairs, Melissa S. Curry, UFHR Vice President.

2nd Row (L-R): Gregg Clarke, Senior Director of Facilities Operations, Jeff Wieners, Vice President of Sales, AvMed, TaxWatch Sponsor.

Tasked with increasing the chilled water capacity to serve two new buildings under construction, the Chiller team identified a way to redistribute chilled water to provide service to the new buildings and shutdown two chilled water plants for five months during the winter. These efforts created new efficiencies in chilled water production and distribution, resulting in the elimination of a $6 million chilled water plant installation, along with recurring annual operational savings of $250,000 for the University.

Annualized Cost Savings Estimate: $250,000

Gwynn Cadwallader & the Connected by UF Conference Team (CxUF)

Plaque Award, Large Team/Agency

Front Row (L-R): Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Gwynn Cadwallader, Associate Director, T&OD, Barb Mitola, Director of Human Resources, College of the Arts, Jamie Dale, Assistant Director of Finance, College of Education, Ronda Mitchell, Instructional Designer II, T&OD, Michelle Romero, Business Intelligence, Finance & Accounting, Bob Parks, Assistant Vice President UFHR and Senior Director, T&OD.

2nd Row (L-R): Jeff Wieners, Vice President of Sales, AvMed, TaxWatch Sponsor, Tim Difato, Associate Director for Business Development, Digital Worlds, Ethan Tripp, Operations Manager, Digital Worlds, Irma Alveraz, Learning and Organizational Development Specialist, T&OD, Melissa S. Curry, UFHR Vice President, Nicole Harris, Instructional Designer II, T&OD, Curtis A. Reynolds, Vice President, Business Affairs, Brandon Telg, Instructional Designer II, T&OD, Stephanie Glenn, Grants Accounting Manager, UF Research, Elizabeth Lynch, Acting Director and UFOLIO Administrator, Conflicts of Interest Program.

Plaque Award, Large Team/Agency

Through the collaboration of UFHR Training and Organizational Development, Gator Business Administrators (GBAS), Digital Worlds, MainSpring, and UF Leadership Network, Connected by UF (CxUF), was created. The purpose of this event was to bring employees came together to share successful, innovative business and leadership strategies and ways to work more efficiently. As a result of COVID impacts, this 2-day in-person event, with over 500 registrants, had to be shifted to an online format. UF employees created a cutting-edge conference platform to allow the conference attendees to feel as if they are attending an in-person conference. Technology included a web portal with a live interactive show hosted by a professional UF actor, embedded zoom sessions for learning sessions, and interactive whiteboards where conference participants created and shared their learning outcomes in small volunteer-led groups. As a result of CxUF team efforts, this conference provided highly impactful professional development for over 400 financial, human resources, research, and academic professionals. This online conference format resulted in an annual savings of over $220,000.

Cost Savings Estimate: $222,151

Congratulations 2022 TaxWatch Productivity Award Winners!


Visit the TaxWatch Productivity Awards website for a complete list of winners.

The TaxWatch Productivity Awards Agency Coordinator for the University of Florida may be contacted via email at ppacoordinator@hr.ufl.edu or (352) 273-0149. The Agency Head for the University of Florida is Melissa S. Curry.

Should you have any questions regarding the nomination process or online application please contact Training and Organizational Development, at the email or phone number listed above.