Seven at Mississippi Valley Division receive top awards

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 14, 2009

Seven employees of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division have received top honors. A ceremony was held June 4.

Among the presentations were the Ernest P. Blankenship Awards, some of the highest honors presented to MVD employees by the local commander. The awards were established in 1987, commemorating Blankenship, the longtime MVD executive assistant who died in 1973.

Blankenship winners were:

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• Geotechnical engineer Ken Klaus, who received the Engineer/Scientist Award. He led three teams in the testing, construction and design of the Greater New Orleans Area’s hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system. Klaus spoke at the 2009 National ASCE Geo-Congress Conference and gave presentations at the Memphis District Levee Meeting and, in St. Louis, at the Levee Summit and Midwest Levee Conference. 

• Public affairs specialist Pam Vedros, who received the Professional Award. She helped develop speeches for the MVD commander and senior staff, brochures and news releases. She also served seven months as the acting chief of public affairs.

• Becky Brown, who received the Administrative Award for her aid to the St. Paul/Rock Island/St. Louis District Support Team. Brown’s duties include making travel arrangements for staff members, tracking and scheduling training, and budgeting equipment.

The Woman of the Year Award went to Renee Turner, a civil engineer on the Memphis/Vicksburg District Support Team. Criteria for the award are achievements in the field, assistance to other women, guidance to youths and community service.

In 2008, Turner took on additional duties, including serving as the Memphis District program manager for nine months. She was part of panels that selected women and minorities for promotions; developed a training program for a new woman program manager; and served as a mentor. She encouraged high school students to consider engineering as a career; was Professional Development chair for the Society of Women Engineers; led activities at a Girl Scouts engineering workshop; and was on the Society of American Military Engineers’ Engineer and Construction Camp committee. Turner is a Eucharist minister at St. Paul Catholic Church and participates in Relay for Life. She is director of SAME and a member of the Corps Chapter of the Chamber of Commerce. 

Stephen Turner, a student aide/clerk in the public affairs office, received the Student Aide of the Year Award. His duties included helping with special events and updating the MVD’s Web site. Stephen, 19, is the son of Kent and Becky Turner and attends Hinds Community College.

The Commander’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Equal Employment Opportunity went to Mark Mazzanti. As chief of the Civil Works Integration Division, Mazzanti provided women and minorities with career development opportunities.

Virginia K. Morton was inducted posthumously into the Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees. The honor, for retirees, was established in 1970. Morton was the 53rd inductee. She retired in January 2002 with more than 33 years of government service, the majority at the MVD.

Morton was an officer in the Federal Women’s Program, graduate of Leadership Vicksburg, member of the Mayor of Vicksburg’s Council on Business and part of the Municipal Election Commission. She was treasurer of Porters Chapel United Methodist Church and the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary.

Awards for special performance were also presented. They went to Michael B. Rogers, Edie Whittington and Buddy Holliday. Also, 22 employees, representing 560 years of federal service, received length-of-service certificates, = from 10 to 35 years.

The MVD oversees the St. Paul, Rock Island, St. Louis, Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts. It, along with the Corps’ Mississippi River Commission, operate on Walnut Street.


Contact Matthew Breazeale at