UPEA Honors Outstanding Employees in the Public Employee Salute

The Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) is proud to participate in the Public Employee Salute Program.  The idea for the program originated in 1999, when a past UPEA executive director noticed that KSL Radio had a special segment to recognize Utah teachers.  The segment is commonly known as the “Teacher Feature.”  However, there was no feature recognizing Utah’s public employees.  The following year, the UPEA and Mountain America Credit Union Public Employee Salute program began.

The following individuals have been nominated and recognized with the Public Employee Salute for their hard work for the state of Utah.


Dr. Shannon Wnek is an exceptional public employee, dedicated to her role as the audiology and compliance coordinator for the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program with the Bureau of Children with Special Healthcare Needs. She regularly reviews and updates practice protocols for newborn hearing screenings, working with programs and partners to collaboratively solve any issues or struggles. Thank you, Dr. Wnek, for your commitment over the past 10 years to providing clinical services for the Utah Department Health and providing tele-audiology services to rural locations.

Jeff Olinger, a state employee for more than 10 years, is a program specialist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. He is recognized for keeping public employees’ best interests in mind and representing their views with his work for UPEA. Olinger is known around the Price DWS office for his positive attitude and willingness to answer any questions. Thank you for always being a voice for public employees!

February 2021

Chris Bowden, an environmental scientist with the Salt Lake County Health Department, has an exceptional work ethic. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bowden has worked tirelessly, doing contact tracing and making restaurant exposure calls – all while continuing to prioritize his commitment to ensuring food safety for Salt Lake County residents. Chris’s dedication for the health and safety of the public does not go unnoticed.

Matthew Slawson is an exemplary program manager of forensic toxicology with the Utah Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratories. He is known for being knowledgeable, and humble, and for treating his employees with respect and kindness. Over the years, he has earned the respect of others through his dedication and hard work in improving turnaround time for reporting cases out and expanding services the program provides. Slawson is recognized for securing grants to help the Forensic Toxicology Program grow and for sustaining the growth with improving training programs for the staff and public.

Kristen Taylor is an associate professor at Salt Lake Community College. For more than  10 years, she has been a dedicated educator to students in the Biology Department. Her commitment to taking time to help all students has earned her a reputation as one of the best instructors. Taylor is recognized as an amazing professor and is known for being instrumental in providing online courses during the pandemic.

Valerie Worrall is a transitional caseworker for the Utah Department of Corrections Programming Division. Worrall has been instrumental in bringing classes and opportunities to the inmate population to assist in reducing recidivism. She provides encouragement and countless resources for success upon reentry into the community. Worrall has navigated obstacles to continue to diligently provide cognitive behavioral therapy classes during the pandemic. She has been a beacon of light through a very dark time.

March 2021

Krysta Badger has been with the Utah Department of Health’s Children with Special Healthcare Needs Bureau since 2008. She is currently serving as the data coordinator for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Data. Badger is an unsung hero, working quietly behind the scenes, making sure every birth in Utah is accounted for in the state EHDI database. She makes sure each infant – nearly 50,000 a year – receives a newborn hearing screening. Thank youfor always being a kind person and an excellent communicator. 

Jennifer Maxfield is an essential member of the Health and Life Rates and Forms Analysts Team for the Utah Insurance Department. She excels at  her responsibilities and approaches each one with enthusiasm. Maxfield has created valuable tools to help analysts perform duties more efficiently. She is recognized for her positivity and charming sense of humor. Thank you for helping to ensure insurance carriers offer compliant and value-based products to the residents of Utah. 

Officer Benjamin Suamataia has been an outstanding officer since starting with the Utah Department of Corrections. He is often found mentoring newer officers, responding to critical incidents, and maintaining an air of natural professionalism few can imitate. He faces volatile situations and helps broker peaceful resolutions. Thank you, Officer Suamatiai, for your dedication to the Utah State Prison and for going above and beyond for the public.  

Lt. Alan Zimmerman is a long serving public employee for the Utah Department of Corrections, who routinely goes above and beyond for his officers. He is dedicated to working long weekend shifts so that his officers can leave on time. Lt. Zimmerman is forward thinking, duty oriented, and displays a desire for perfection few others can achieve. Officers who report to him consider it a privilege to serve under his leadership.

Thank you all for your dedication to the citizens of Utah!
Click here to nominate an outstanding employee for recognition in the Public Employee Salute.