By Sara Goodeyon
TULSA, Okla. - Two members of the Tulsa District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office of Counsel staff are winners of USACE Chief Counsel Honorary Awards for 2012.
The prestigious Keystone Award and E. Manning Seltzer Award were presented to Raye Thornton and Stephanie R. Darr in a ceremony at Tulsa District Headquarters Oct. 5 by District Commander Col. Michael Teague.
"I was surprised and kind of speechless when I heard about the award," said Thornton, winner of the Keystone award. "I was very honored and humbled, and just completely surprised."
"I was very surprised as well, and very honored to be recognized by the chief counsel's office and our organization for this award," said Darr, winner of the Seltzer award. "I appreciated the nomination from our district counsel as well."
"These are the chief counsel's annual honorary awards," said District Counsel Keith Klein. "They are the most important awards we have with chief counsel, so they are significant. The Seltzer Award is very prestigious as is the Keystone Award."
Thornton is the sole paralegal in the Office of Counsel and also serves as the Freedom of Information Act officer. The Keystone Award, established in 1997, recognizes professionalism and valued service of an individual member or of a team comprised of members of the USACE Legal Services System who made a significant contribution to the Corps Legal Services System and its mission.
In a letter notifying Thornton of her selection as the award winner, Chief Counsel Earl Stockdale said, "the name of the Keystone Award refers to the arch which is the supporting element of the structure, without which the arch would fail. The term is reflective of the indispensible roles non-attorneys perform in the successful accomplishment of the Corps' legal services mission."
"Raye just does a great job in the FOIA program," said Klein. "We've had a lot of big complex cases this year that she has dealt with really well, along with managing the office during a time of a lot of change."
Darr, winner of the Seltzer Award, is the district's labor counselor. The award recognizes a Corps attorney who has made one or more special contributions to the Corps' legal services mission. The contribution may result from the development of a legal theory or application in any field of law, legal management innovation or practice, or outstanding performance in solving a legal or management problem.
In a letter to Darr, Stockdale said, "the award is named for E. Manning Seltzer, who served with prominence as the chief legal advisor to the chief of engineers and as general counsel of the Corps from 1956 until his retirement in 1977."
"Stephanie just does a fantastic job dealing with the sensitive personnel issues, so based on her sustained track record, as well as this past year there were some really important cases she worked on, I put her in for that award," said Klein.
"Both Stephanie and Raye are just really, really top notch people who are always contributing and they deserve it immensely," said Klein. "Usually a district will do well to have one chief counsel award; getting two in the same year is a good reflection of the caliber of people in our office."