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12th Cafritz Awards Winners

Sean Murray Egan
Division of Homeland Security and Special Operations
District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department

When asked to assess the impact Lieutenant Sean Egan has had on Washington, DC, and its residents during his 27 years with the DC Fire and EMS Department (FEMS), one of his colleagues said, “There is no doubt [that through] Sean’s leadership and insight, he has saved many lives, millions of dollars, and many National Treasures’ within this great city in which we live and work.”

Consider the following:

  • In 2002, he developed and initiated the Toys for Tots campaign. In 2004 he expanded the campaign to the National Capital Region (NCR) Fire Departments’ Toys for Tots program, which included the ten largest fire departments in the region.
    This program is now one of the largest humanitarian drives and logistical operations in this region. The NCR Toys for Tots program collects an estimated 80,000 toys annually, amassing an estimated value of $4 million and impacting more than 100,000 children.
  • In 2003 Lieutenant Egan identified the hazard of outdated and unrepaired fire hydrants here in the District. Out of service hydrants would remain broken for years, impacting the fire suppression capability of the agency and endangering the lives of firefighters and civilians.
    Today Washington, DC, boasts of a fire hydrant modernization program that has been classified as the most aggressive in the country by the Insurance Service Organization, where less than one per cent of the fire hydrants in the District are out of service, pending repairs or replacement.
  • In 2008, Lieutenant Egan helped to develop Community Service Units (CSU) to support the Department’s Operations Division.
    Over the years the CSUs were deployed to test the operability of the fire hydrants and worked with the DC Water and Sewer Authority to create a water supply strategy across various parts of the District, and assisting residents that were impacted by fires and other natural disasters.

Those he has worked with understand that his success in leading these initiatives comes from his deep commitment to improving the safety and quality of life here in Washington, DC.

“The Fire Department is not a job, it is a way of life for him,” one wrote. “While saving lives is his job, building community around him and the fire department is his passion.”


Ingrid Gutierrez
Community Outreach Coordinator
Office on Latino Affairs Executive Office of the Mayor

In 2009, after more than ten years working and volunteering to promote parent engagement, Ingrid Gutierrez decided to join the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (OLA) for one reason – to improve the quality of life of the District’s Latino population. She has succeeded beyond everyone’s boldest expectations.

As a community outreach specialist, her job is to identify the needs of the Latino community and establish relationships with government agencies, faith-based organizations, the private sector and nonprofits to meet those needs. Her work with Powell Elementary School in Ward 5 is a sterling example.

Powell Principal Janeece Docal spoke of her experience in working with Gutierrez in the following way: “When I got the keys to the building and started as principal, I knew we had a lot of work to do to turn the school around and gain the confidence of the community. Yet Ms. Gutierrez gave me confidence.”

In Powell Elementary Gutierrez had decided to start FLOR (For the Love of Reading) because of the need that she saw among some of the parents with low English language skills. “I knew I needed an innovative way to build trust and encourage them to be involved,” she said. “I chose the name FLOR because I saw that the parents needed to identify with something simple that, with care and love, can turn into something meaningful and beautiful.”

The program has paved the way for parents, teachers and students to become more involved in school and community activities, including tennis clinics, voter registration drives and flu immunization clinics. Gutierrez says that the main reason she was able to successfully initiate and implement her ideas is because she sees herself in the parents who participate in the programs.

“Twenty years ago, I could easily have gotten lost along with my children’s education unless someone had shown me the way for success.”

Those she has worked with on these activities laud her efforts.

One of her recommenders had said:

“Her long hours of work and unconditional commitment to her community have demonstrated her dedication and true leadership to proudly serve the most vulnerable and needed people in our community, ” said one.


Cynthia L. Jones
Program Manager, Abandoned Vehicle Operations
Department of Public Works

It takes a special person to turn a person whose vehicle has been impounded into a satisfied customer. Cynthia Jones, who is a Program Manager for the Abandoned Vehicle Operations at the DC Department of Public Works (DPW), is that person.

As a co-worker who recommended her for the Cafritz Awards put it, “Ms. Jones has the ability to empathize with the motorist whose vehicle has been impounded, explain what is necessary to obtain the vehicle’s release, and at the end of the process, she has another satisfied customer.”

That focus on customer service was prominent when Jones oversaw significant improvements in customer service delivery, including the Auto Impound Management System (AIMS) that now allows customers to pay online in order to retrieve their vehicles. In 2009 she initiated the opening of the first Customer Service center at the City’s impoundment lot.

Jones, who was one of the first 50 parking enforcement control aides hired by the DPW in 1978, has risen steadily through the ranks of DPW throughout her career with the District. In all of her positions she has demonstrated a commitment to innovative thinking, technology and customer service.

One colleague had this to say:

“When given the challenge of reducing the cycle time between when a request is made to remove an abandoned or dangerous vehicle from public space and its removal, Ms. Jones chose a multidisciplinary approach to achieve the goal. Through research she identified the impediments to reducing the cycle time, including resources such as limited personnel and high demand for the service. A number of measures were taken, which reduced the cycle time from complaint to removal of an abandoned or dangerous vehicle. The complaint process was fully automated to control, schedule, track, and prioritize all abandoned and dangerous vehicle requests. Mobile field computers were added to a number of Investigator vehicles to accelerate processing time of customer services requests.”

Jones has also demonstrated a commitment to professional development. She is a 2007 graduate of the Program for Excellence in Municipal Management (PEMM) administered by The George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership.


Michael Kharfen
Bureau Chief, Partnerships, Capacity Building & Community Outreach
Department of Health

According to one of his colleagues, “During his tenure at the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, TB Administration (HAHSTA), at the DC Department of Health, Michael Kharfen developed and implemented social marketing campaigns that have revolutionized the District’s public health messaging. His contributions are too numerous to detail and his impact on the HIV/AIDS epidemic are too powerful to put into words.”

Among some of the numerous initiatives that Kharfen undertook in his six years on the job:

  • Leading the development of a five-year social marketing strategy to encourage the utilization of HIV testing and treatment in the District
  • Overseeing the re-design and expansion of the Effi Barry Community capacity-building program of technical assistance and grants, and enrolling 70 local community organizations;
  • Developing and implementing innovative partnerships, including with the MAC AIDS Fund and CVS for the expansion of female condoms; with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the DCNIH Partnership for HIV/AIDS Progress and with Pfizer for the expansion of “offer the test” services among primary care physicians.

These campaigns, paired with the expansion of HIV services, generated a five-fold increase in HIV testing, a 50 percent increase in enrollment in treatment and insurance service, and the 10-fold expansion of District-wide condom distribution to 5 million in 2011. They have also been cited as national models and replicated by the Centers for Disease Control and other cities.

Working in the area of HIV/AIDS social marketing requires specific character traits, including open communication and feedback, willingness to take risks, and a spirit of collaboration. Kharfen possesses these in abundance, according to those that have worked with him.

The key to his successful collaboration is simple, Kharfen says:

“It is all possible through the teams I’ve fostered and encouragement by baking cookies. I’m known in the office as ‘the cookie man.’”


Demetrios Vlassopoulos
Deputy Fire Chief, Operations Division, Plt.2
District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department

Since being sworn in as a firefighter on January 21, 1986, Deputy Fire Chief Demetrios (Jim) Vlassopoulos has distinguished himself at all levels of his career as someone who can develop and implement major technological advances.

For example, in 2007, Chief Vlassopoulos (otherwise known to his colleagues as “Chief V”) became the project manager for the installation and configuration of the Mobile Data Computers (MDC) installed in every emergency response vehicle in the DC Fire and EMS Department (FEMS). One of his colleagues called the effort simply, “the single biggest advancement (in the department) in the past 20 years.”

Of this effort, Vlassopoulos says proudly, “To this day the technology is part of our everyday business processes and is valued by all stakeholders. First responders maintain the most accurate Computer Aided Dispatch [CAD] incident information at their fingertips along with mapping and routing data that helps them to navigate to areas without delay.”

His most recent major initiative involved integrating the DC Google Earth Globe into the department’s mobile data computer project - providing first responders with city-wide public safety, demographic and dynamic live fire hydrant data. This information is used every day and has greatly enhanced FEMS’s operational abilities.

The project gained national visibility when it was highlighted in a CNBC documentary on Google.

Vlassopoulos has worked his way up through the DC Fire and EMS Department, serving as a company officer, Captain, Battalion Chief, and in his current role as the Deputy Fire Chief.

One of his colleagues summarized his career as such: “As a fireman, Jim was excellent. Then as a fire officer, once again he was excellent. I am sure that you can guess what was next; Jim goes on to be a brilliant Chief Officer!”

While recognizing his technical expertise, they also praised his people skills.“

While Jim has great ideas and an impressive working knowledge of firefighting and of the CAD system, his greatest attribute is his motivational ability. Jim inspired those around him to never stop improving and enhancing system functionality and individual technical skills. Jim was always first to recognize individuals for their contributions. Whenever Jim had a suggestion, you could be sure it was focused on providing better service to the citizens and visitors of Washington, DC.

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