Forest Service employee and KRBD volunteer Willie Smith has been named the 2014 winner of the Meritorious Service Award for Interpretive Support from the Tongass National Forest.
The Meritorious Service Award is given to an employee who provides outstanding customer service and contributions to interpretation. Smith is an information assistant at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.
Smith’s supervisor, Leslie Swada, nominated him for the award. She says he’s been working at the center since 2005. For the first two seasons he worked in the bookstore and primarily provided information to tourists about where things were located in town. Swada says in 2007, Smith took on a larger role.
“And what I mean by that is that he was actually stationed on the floor of the visitor center interacting with visitors, and also local guests, and providing great customer service and helping visitors with any questions they might have.”
Swada says Smith also organized and developed special programs that were presented at the center as well as in the schools. One program Smith created is called “The Working Dogs of Alaska”.
“This program tied in Willie’s own life story of living with a working dog or service animal. He designed a program where he talked about working dogs all over Alaska – The Iditarod and other service dogs like the one he has – things like that.”
Smith lost his vision due to detached retinas. He has a service dog to help him get around the community independently.
Smith says he was surprised by the honor.
“When I was that my name was put in I was like, “me?” It was a surprise to me and I was even more surprised when they said I won it.”
The award includes a plaque with original artwork created by Ketchikan artist Evon Zerbetz.
“From what I’ve been told by friends, the artwork is a pretty cool rendition of some butterflies. I also received a hat from the Forest Service with Smokey Bear on it. And Mulberry, my sidekick, he received a box of dog biscuits.”
Mulberry is Smith’s current service dog. The names of Mulberry and Smith’s former service dog, Sager, were included in the artwork.
The Meritorious Service Award for Interpretive Support is one of several interpretation and education awards presented every two years on the Tongass.