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Two Pima County workers recognized with Zimmerman awards

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Two Pima County workers recognized with Zimmerman awards

  • Hank Atha (left) and Amelie Craig Cramer
    Center for the Future of ArizonaHank Atha (left) and Amelie Craig Cramer
  • Gabe Zimmerman with a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence that Zimmerman and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office helped bring to Tucson in 2010.
    courtesy of Gabrielle Gifford's officeGabe Zimmerman with a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence that Zimmerman and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office helped bring to Tucson in 2010.

Two Pima County workers are among the winners of the 2014 Gabe Zimmerman Public Service Award, which recognizes non-elected public employees who serve citizens.

Hank Atha, deputy Pima County administrator for Community and Economic Development, will receive the Leadership Award and Amelia Craig Cramer, chief deputy Pima County attorney, will receive the Innovation Award.

The winners will be honored at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns' annual meeting on Aug. 21, the Center for the Future of Arizona announced Thursday.

The awards are named in honor of Gabe Zimmerman, director of community outreach for then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Zimmerman was one of six people killed on Jan. 8, 2011, when a gunman opened fire at a local congressional event.

Hank Atha: Leadership Award

Hank Atha, who has worked for Pima County since 1979, is most notable for his numerous responsibilities. Atha runs two departments, Community Development & Neighborhood Conservation Department and the Community Services, Employment & Training Department, which work to improve living standards for people with lower incomes and in rural, unincorporated communities. He is also responsible for the Pima County Public Library System, the Pima County Stadium District, and the Economic Development and Tourism Department. The departments combined have 829 employees, and an annual budget of $95.1 million.

Among his other work, after getting a $22 million HUD grant in 2010, one of Atha's departments collaborated with the City of Tucson and seven local nonprofits to make foreclosed and vacant homes energy efficient and affordable.

The nomination said Atha "has done more for community and workforce development than any other single person in Southern Arizona. The programs and partnerships he developed have helped countless Pima County residents survive the Great Recession and will provide our community a firm foundation in years to come."

Atha was more humble about his accomplishments.

"I am very honored [to receive the award], especially since I worked for years with Gabe's mother, Emily Nottingham," Atha said. But he expressed the feeling that there were a lot of people more deserving of the award. 

"I don't so much see my myself as a leader — I'm more of a facilitator," he said.

"I feel I share the honor with all the people who work for me and do the day-to-day, face-to-work." Atha said. "A lot of people do the work — I simply have dozens of very competent managers who report to me," he said.

Amelia Craig Cramer: Innovation Award

Amelia Craig Cramer has been the chief deputy Pima County Attorney since 2006. She manages Southern Arizona's largest law office, with more than 100 prosecutors and civil legal advisors.

Kramer said she was "thrilled" about receiving the award. Like Atha, Kramer had a connection with Gabe Zimmerman. In fact, Kramer worked with Zimmerman on the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison program that was central to her selection.

According to Kramer, the program came about because she and County Attorney Barbara La Wall were looking for ways to address the demand side of the drug war. Without intervention, drug felons are on a "revolving door to the courts," Kramer said.

The program provides treatment and rehabilitation to people who commit crimes because of their addiction to drugs. In addition to giving addicts an alternative to prison, the program — the only one of its kind in Arizona — saved taxpayers more than $1 million in its first two years of operation, the county attorney's office said in a 2013 report.

Zimmerman served as a liaison between Kramer and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, helping her get a letter of support from Giffords for a Department of Justice grant.

Kramer, who served as the pesident of the Arizona State Bar Association in 2013, also received that association's 2014 Member of the Year Award in June.

Another winner of the Zimmerman Award this year is Flagstaff's deputy city manager, Jerene Watson, who will receive the Civic Engagement Award.

Gabriel Zimmerman

The Gabe Zimmerman Awards were created in the Spring of 2011, shortly after the congressional aide's death, to recognize the work of civil servants who connect citizens with the people elected to represent them. 

The competition is statewide and nominees are selected by their peers. Nominees are judged by the impact they have and the legacy they leave their community.

Zimmerman was the first congressional staffer killed in the line of duty. He had set up the “Congress on Your Corner” event on Jan. 8, the day of the shooting spree that killed him and five others and wounded 13 — including Giffords, who was shot in the head.

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