The 2017 Excellence in Public Service Award winners were honored today in separate surprise announcements at their respective jobs. The winners are:
- Marilyn Cook, Executive Director of COMCARE of Sedgwick County;
- Jennifer Venn, Behavior Intervention Para at Gardiner Elementary School; and
- Rebecca Lewis, City of Wichita Wastewater Division Manager.
The honorees were selected from thousands of eligible workers from Sedgwick County, Wichita Public Schools and the City of Wichita. They share a strong work ethic, exceptional performance and a commitment to community.
Courtesy of the sponsoring DeVore Foundation, each honoree will receive a $2,500 check at a reception at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3 at The Cowtown Visitors Center, 1865 W. Museum Blvd.
Marilyn Cook (Sedgwick County) is the Executive Director of COMCARE of Sedgwick County, the largest mental health center in Kansas and the licensed community mental health center for Sedgwick County. Locally, she serves on the Sedgwick County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and previously served as the mental health representative to Team Justice, Sedgwick County’s juvenile corrections advisory board, for six years. She is a member of the Community Crisis Center Advisory group and on the EMPAC Board. She is a member of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas and is on the Executive Committee Regulations Committee, State Contract Negotiating Committee, and chairs the KanCare Clinical Committee.
Cook is a Licensed Clinical Specialist Social Worker (LSCSW). She has been both a clinician and administrator. She received her BA and Master’s degrees from Michigan State University. She is a certified Myers Briggs trainer and has served as a facilitator in the Sedgwick County Strategic Planning process, having facilitated a number of group meetings across the state with a variety of stakeholders. She has also been an adjunct facility member at Wichita State University teaching a graduate level course in the School of Social Work.
Jennifer Venn (USD 259) is a Behavior Intervention Para at Gardiner Elementary School, which is close to the neighborhood where she grew up. She began her career with the Wichita Public Schools in 2013 as a substitute teacher. She is dedicated to supporting students with severe behavioral issues by providing a calm environment and coping strategies to help them return to class. Venn builds relationships with students and is genuinely interested in their challenges, successes, and activities. She is often found sitting with parents at Wichita United Basketball Club (WUBC) games, Greater Wichita Junior Football League games or even out of town bicycle motocross (BMX) races to watch her students.
With a background in Fine Arts, Venn taught at Friends University, Wichita State University and is currently adjunct professor of Art and Design with Fort Hays State University. She mentors college graphic design students and volunteers as a portfolio reviewer. Venn designed and organized a calendar campaign for Victory in the Valley to fund summer camps for children. She is a volunteer with Hood Hop, a non-profit organization that teaches Dance and Art to low income youth. Venn implemented a design project with City Life Café to help rehabilitate juvenile justice youth, teaching job skills and assisting with résumé building. She also recently became a Girl Scout leader.
Rebecca “Becky” Lewis (City of Wichita) is the City of Wichita Wastewater Division Manager in the Public Works & Utilities Department and has worked for the City for 30 years. She oversees the operations and maintenance of four wastewater plants and 60 lift stations which transport and treat an average of 38 million gallons per day.
Lewis has served on the executive board and participated in several committees of the Kansas Members Association for Water Environment Federation, including the industrial and scholarship committees. She has been involved with Wichita Initiative to Renew the Environment (WIRE) and its Environmental Leadership Council (ELC). She leads Wichita Clean Streams! and spearheaded the Starlight Flotilla and Lights on the River events. She also is an organizer of the Arkansas River Trash Roundup.
Lewis volunteers at Riverlawn Christian Church by assisting with baptism preparations, youth events and is a Kindergarten Sunday School Teacher and a Service Day Sunday Team Leader. She also volunteers at the Wichita Family Crisis Center. She received her bachelor of science degree at Wichita State University and offers assistance and ideas for research projects to local Master of Public Health students.