Public Employee Salute Honors Dedication to Service

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.


Tyler Rutner is an Environmental Health Scientist with the Salt Lake County Health Department. He has been helping other employees by doing extra Temporary Food inspections. The division of food protection has had many employees retire and leave employment during the past year. Tyler has been proactive in training the 4 new inspectors. He also helped a food establishment get free paint by referring them to HHW when they did not have money to buy supplies to fix their floors and walls. Thank you, Tyler, for going above and beyond to protect public health!

Dr. Jenny Pedersen has been an audiologist with the Utah Department of Health’s Children with Special Healthcare Needs (CSHCN) Bureau since 2013. Providing public health audiology is a passion of hers and although the CSHCN Clinics lost their funding and closed in 2015, Dr. Pedersen still provides hearing screening services at community health centers and tele-audiology assessments for infants in rural Utah. She also serves as the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Hearing Aid Programs Coordinator, managing the Children’s Hearing Aid and Hearing Aid Recycling Programs, helping families in need. Dr. Pedersen has established excellent community partnerships and frequently meets with the legislature, advocating for children who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing. She is an incredible asset to the Utah Department of Health and a respected member of the pediatric audiology community. Dr. Pedersen has a kind heart and is an amazing public employee, providing the BEST service, always with a smile.


Neil Opperman is an Environmental Health Scientist with the Salt Lake County Health Department. He has gone the extra mile during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, Neil was contract tracing six days a week, 10-12 hours a day. Even while working long hours, he always had a smile on his face. Neil’s friendly and calm demeanor makes him a pleasure to work with. Neil currently works in food protection and has performed all the plan reviews and preopening inspections for food establishments at the airport. Thank you, Neil, for going above and beyond in your assignments and working hard to protect public health.

Sergeant Parm Patrick exemplifies what it means to be a Correctional Sergeant with the Utah Department of Corrections. Sergeant Patrick is always willing to answer questions, provide training, and teach staff members about aspects of the job. He creates a warm and inviting environment for all staff and facilitates weekend events so each employee can feel a part of the corrections team. Sergeant Patrick also officiates sporting events in the community and volunteers all year round, specifically during the holidays with fund raising and Angel Tree donations. Thank you, Sergeant Patrick, for being a role model to everyone.


Joe Herrera, a District Permits Officer for Region 2 of the Utah Department of Transportation, moved through the permits department from blue stakes locator to permits inspections. Joe took charge after the small amount of training that was given to him and stepped up to oversee several contractors each day. He is always willing to work the needed nights or weekends or answer emergency work call outs. Thank you, Joe, for being proactive in keeping those in right of way to wear proper safety attire and keep active traffic control and lane closures to protect workers and traveling public.

Sherri Pitts has been working as a Purchasing Agent for nearly 31 years at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. She shows extraordinary competence while performing her tasks. Sherri saves the state thousands of dollars every year by putting inmate food items out for second market bid even though it’s more difficult and time consuming. Sherri is recognized for being excellent at her job, knowing the ins and out of FINET and can handle any problem that arises. She is very helpful in answering questions, has made training templates for CUCF in FINET and shows patience while guiding and developing the skills of a new employee. Thank you, Sherri, for being an asset to CUCF and the state of Utah.


Jake Serago, an engineer for the Utah Division of Water Resources, is a brilliant water modeler. He takes complex water systems and creates a virtual water model that replicates what we see in the real world. His models allow water planners to model “what-if” scenarios and make better decisions for the state’s water future. Jake considers factors and variables that other modelers might overlook, caring about getting input from all sides of an issue. Jake is recognized for being positive, upbeat, and a friendly and sincere person. He cares about improving his office, the state, and the entire planet. Thank you, Jake, for always looking for ways to improve air quality, reduce use of plastics, and use limited water supplies wisely.

Julie Armstrong is recognized for her work for the Utah Department of Health’s Division of Medicaid and Health Financing. She provides education and support to employees, Medicaid members and providers, and key stakeholders. She always ensures that the information being requested is complete, concise, and understood by all parties involved. Julie has a knack for finding things that aren’t working well and providing well thought out suggestions to improve efficiencies within her own team, in addition to key stakeholders for Medicaid. Thank you, Julie, for your commitment to serving the Medicaid population and taking pride in the team you are a part of.

Stephanie Hofeling is a dedicated employee of the Department of Human Services Division of Juvenile Justice Services. She is recognized for working harder than anyone on her graveyard shift. Her coworkers want her to know how much she truly means to her team. Thank you, Stephanie, for your dedication and service to the state of Utah.  

Mary Morales is the Community Resource Liaison for Department of Workforce Services in Davis County. She is responsible for making connections with community partners and developing resources for customers in need. She has created a Clothing Donation Closet where she provides interview clothing for customers, has worked to create a resource for kids needing glasses and supplies to go back to school, and developed a connection with the Victim Advocate Office to help families experiencing homelessness. She also works with a countless number of other advocacy groups. Mary touches the lives of everyone she works with and is an integral part of her work team. Thank you, Mary, for being a hero in the community. 

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.