Utah Chapter's Annual Awards Program

Left to right: Laura Hanson, Aimee Winder Newton, Senator Brian Shiowaza, Juan Palma, Jill Carter, Florian Hernandez

ASPA’s Utah Chapter hosted its Annual Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at the University of Utah.  More than 60 attendees, ranging from new professionals to long-time Chapter members, gathered to celebrate the achievement of distinguished individuals across Utah. Below you’ll find the list of honorees and some best practices/event success tips from Utah Chapter President Florian Hernandez.

Award Honorees:

  • The Arthur V. Watkins Distinguished Service Award honors elected officials who, through exceptional commitment, skill and integrity, have served the public with special distinction.  2016 Recipient: Senator Brian Shiozawa, Utah Legislature
  • The G. Homer Durham Distinguished Service Award honors appointed officials who have served the public with honor and integrity. 2016 Recipient: Mr. Juan Palma, former Utah State BLM Director
  • The F. Ted Herbert Distinguished Service Award honors individuals who have made significant contributions to public administration through academia or as a public employee or citizen. 2016 Recipient: Ms. Jill Carter, Human Resource Director at Questar Corporation
  • The Board of Commission Award of Excellence honors a board or commission whose members have exhibited community service, work to support the common good; proactive in decisionmaking; and facilitate public participation in governmental processes. 2016 Recipient: Jordan River Commission

Best Practices/Words of Advice

Planning an awards luncheon and ceremony requires a substantial amount of work, collaboration and communication for many organizations. For the Utah Chapter, officers and council members managed to garner nominations (for Award nominees) from its Chapter members; evaluate and select the Award recipients; and promote the Awards Luncheon.  It also coordinated and secured the logistics for the event such as: a press release; reserving a venue; recruiting a speaker; catering; and ordering plaques for the award winners.

Florian Hernandez, 2016-2017 Chapter President, offers the following advice based on her experience planning this awards luncheon—one of the Chapter’s most visible and enjoyable events:

1. Practice good time management skills.
Time management is one of the most important skills to plan and execute an event successfully. A realistic time frame needs to be established to structure what is required to organize the event from beginning to end. For the Chapter’s Awards Luncheon, this is usually six to eight weeks. Another critical factor is setting deadlines for tasks to be completed. A task list is created and Council members are assigned to each. Throughout the course of planning, Hernandez states that, email is their choice for communicating, and can oftentimes be more efficient than holding meetings. Follow-through, changes in plans and reminders of deadlines are all taken care of via email.

Time management is also essential at the Awards Luncheon itself.  Effort is made to ensure speakers, nominators and recipients hold to the schedule according to the event program. If a speaker is allotted 15 minutes, try to stay as close to this time limit as possible. The same practice applies to award recipients and nominators. As the nominators introduce their nominees, “sometimes nominators have many great things to share and say about the award recipient,” says Hernandez, “but we try our best to stick to the time limit and stay on task.”

Time management is of the utmost importance when planning the Annual Awards Luncheon. Hernandez says that subsequent to the initial planning meeting, email, and even FaceTime, can prove to be useful tools in executing the tasks at hand; ensuring deadlines are met; marketing the event and collecting nominations during the early stages of planning.

2. Make a task list and delegate responsibly.
Hosting the Annual Awards Luncheon takes a lot of effort. The success of Utah’s event relies on the cooperation of its Chapter Officers and Council, Chapter members, and wide network in the public administration community. The outstanding collaboration between all these parties helps to make this Awards Luncheon a success. In addition, the experience of Council Members who have helped plan this event in the past is a big advantage.  They know what is required and needs to happen to “get the job done.”

Hernandez recommends making a list of tasks and delegating them.  She has the fortune of working with a group that is responsive and reliable when given an assignment.  They take ownership and accountability for completing the task.  That said, follow-up is necessary to ensure all parts and aspects of the event are being done, when needed, and on time.

3. Be creative with marketing your event.
Utah Chapter leaders used different communication streams to accept nominations and attract event attendees. Whether Facebook, Eventbrite or email, the Utah Chapter wants to continuously improve exposure and communication. The nominating committee, comprised of three people, reviewed a wide range of applications for potential award recipients.  However, it is the exchange of “sending the announcement out for members to nominate an individual,” getting the information/nominations forms back, contacting people, and later distributing the announcement and invitations for the Awards Luncheon, that is one of the more challenging parts of planning this event.

Once the Award Recipients have been determined, it can be used as a marketing tool to promote the Awards Luncheon.  People knowing that the awardees will be recognized at a special event can attract many to attend, especially from the public administration community.  A pre- and post press release is also helpful for exposure and getting the word out about this important ASPA Chapter event. Hernandez notes the award recipients are not always “high profile,” but it is the extraordinary caliber of work and contribution they have made in the public service/administration arena, which make awarding these individuals momentous.

Need help in putting together a press release? ASPA’s website can provide some guidance.


The Utah Chapter successfully hosted its Annual Awards Luncheon for more than 60 people. A nominal fee for the nicely catered lunch was charged to attendees.  However, the ASPA Chapter covered lunch costs for the speaker, award recipients and their accompanying guest.  Other expenses for the venue, plaques, and ancillary items were kept to a minimum.  The Chapter always aims to break about even on its gatherings.  For the year’s events, the Utah Chapter was able to accomplish this. Chapter President Florian Hernandez shares that 2016 was a turnaround year and anticipates that 2017 will be even better!

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