Three Amtrak passenger service employees with the Minot and Williston stations and a former employee were honored with Amtrak presidential awards Nov. 8 in Washington, D.C.
The Amtrak President's Service & Safety Awards program is the highest recognition given to employees by the corporation.
Doneta Skinn and Andrew Maragos, customer service representatives at the Minot Amtrak station, and Dan Valley, their former supervisor and district manager of stations, were honored with achievement awards.
Skinn, Maragos and Valley were honored for their work to save the Amtrak station when the Souris River flood hit Minot in June 2011 and then to restore Amtrak service to the city. Valley now is director of Food and Beverage, Transportation, in Chicago.
Nancy Olsen, customer service representative with the Williston Amtrak station, received the sustained excellence honor.
Olsen was recognized for her work in running one of the busiest stations along the Empire Builders' route, along with many unforeseen situations.
The awards were presented to them and 114 other recipients from across the country earlier this month at a luncheon in Washington, D.C.
Joseph Boardman, Amtrak president and CEO, said the luncheon has become a special tradition at Amtrak to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of award recipients who went above and beyond the call of duty.
According to the nominations for the Minot and Williston recipients:
"Last year's devastating flood conditions struck the city of Minot, placing the station in peril. The unselfish actions of customer service representatives Doneta Skinn and Andrew Maragos, along with their former supervisor, district manager of stations Dan Valley, helped to preserve Amtrak property and restore service at the Minot station.
"Doneta and Andrew did a remarkable job in the face of adversity. When it became obvious that the floodwaters placed the station in jeopardy, they took ownership of the situation. They devised a plan - without being asked - and carried it out to the astonishment of their managers. They turned off the power and plumbing, lifted equipment and secured space to store valuable equipment and documents above the water line.
"When the roads in the town were being closed, their commitment to Amtrak was the driving force causing them to forsake their own personal welfare in order to secure the station. Andrew walked in waist-high water to prevent added damage from rising water. Doneta braved the flood conditions in order to speak to passengers who showed up when the station was closed. Her compassion and empathy was graciously displayed with each and every passenger.
"Dan Valley also worked around the clock to help save the building and relocate property. He demonstrated extraordinary skill and passion for his employees and the company's resources. Dan also took photographs and continuously provided details of conditions to ensure that all stakeholders were aware. It was Dan's quick thinking that resulted in moving the station operation to the baggage area (which Dan rewired himself) to restore service at Minot and minimize employees' furlough period.
"Doneta Skinn, Andrew Maragos and Dan Valley averted what could have been a disaster. They went above and beyond all their responsibilities and are extremely deserving of this achievement award.
"Nancy Olsen works at quite possibly one of the most remote Amtrak locations: Williston, N.D. Since joining Amtrak in December 1973, Nancy has served as both a reservations and information clerk and a ticket clerk. For 30 of her 39 years, Nancy has been relied upon for her knowledge and expertise regarding all aspects of the Williston station. She has handled unforeseen situations with professionalism, determination, dedication and superior customer service.
"How often does a person deal with extreme (minus 30 degree) weather, floods that inundate entire towns or a major economic boom that brought over 75,000 people into a small community? Nancy has dealt with all of this in just the last two years!
"The Williston station has increased in ridership and revenue so much in the past few years that it is now one of the busiest locations on the route of the Empire Builder. People are often dropped at the station to find themselves with nowhere to go if trains are running late. Nancy keeps the station open and gives of her personal time to provide a warm and welcoming environment.
"The station continues to function well because of Nancy's hard work, dedication and creativity. She often wears many hats: manager, problem solver, tourism officer and accountant. No matter the situation, Nancy handles it with grace.
"When Minot, N.D., was hit with a terrible flood, Nancy willingly assumed all responsibilities for that station and oversaw payroll and scheduling for the entire state. She has maintained the most efficiently run operation of any single-agent station in the country by wisely using Amtrak resources."