DeGarmo named first TERO Worker of the Year
By Brent Merrill
Smoke Signals staff writer
When Ferrell DeGarmo accepted the first Tribal Employment Rights Office Worker of the Year Award on Saturday, May 30, at the Elders Activity Center, he entered the annals of Tribal history.
TERO Director Greg Azure said that staff considered several candidates for the TERO Worker of the Year Award and they chose the winner from the list of workers who had previously been honored with a monthly TERO award.
When selecting the winner, Azure said they considered attendance, performance and acquisition of new skills. They also consulted with contractors.
“We knew this individual certainly had the heart for this type of work,” said Azure. “We have seen this individual come along and we wanted to recognize him for those accomplishments.”
Azure said he hopes that honoring DeGarmo, 33, will encourage others to rise to the occasion.
DeGarmo is currently working for Great Western Corp. on the Fogarty Creek Bridge project on U.S. Highway 101.
“He has been offered to move with the company to the next project in California, so a real success story in a short period of time for Ferrell DeGarmo,” said Azure.
DeGarmo, who was the March worker of the month, received an engraved plaque and a $150 gift certificate to Spirit Mountain Casino.
“I just want to thank everybody – all the TERO staff,” said DeGarmo. “I’m thankful for all the opportunity given to me. I take all of you guys with me on every job I go to. I take a lot of pride in my work; not just for myself, but for my people.”
Azure was master of ceremonies and Tribal Chairman Reyn Leno welcomed the audience after Tribal member Marcus Gibbons gave the invocation during the dinner.
A slideshow featuring Tribal members who have been dispatched to job sites during the year played as guests visited and shared stories. More than 60 people attended the dinner.
“The whole idea tonight for this type of event is appreciation,” said Azure. “I just really want to emphasize the fact that we are appreciative of what this workforce has been doing out there.”
Azure said it has been 13 months since TERO staff members started putting Tribal members to work. He added that TERO serves the Grand Ronde community by promoting the interests of self-government and ensuring that Indian people can participate in economic opportunities on or near the Reservation.
“My hat’s off to all those that have been contributing to the workforce and getting out on these construction projects,” said Azure.
Leno said that establishing a TERO program was a struggle that took work from Tribal leadership to finally get secured in Grand Ronde.
Leno said it’s the people involved with TERO and the opportunities the program creates that matter. Under TERO and a memorandum of understanding with the state Department of Transportation, the Tribe can obtain construction project jobs for Tribal members within a 60-mile radius of the Reservation.
“When council decided to give it a shot, then this is the outcome of it right here,” said Leno. “When you look back on the program, it’s about the people – it’s about you guys. The Tribe can really only make the opportunity. It’s you people that really go out and do the work. This is a program that we are really proud about.”
Leno acknowledged fellow Tribal Council members Denise Harvey, Vice Chair Jack Giffen Jr. and Chris Mercier in attendance.
“I would like to acknowledge our council, not only our present council, but past council as well,” said Leno. “To see it now today, where it’s all at, I just think it is a great program and I want to make sure to let everybody know that council is in full support of this. We have a lot of people working now. It’s been a journey that I don’t think we are done with yet by any means.”
Leno said he envisions a program that will be a standard for other Tribal TERO programs. “We are going to make this work,” he said. “We are going to make it the best program we possibly can.”
Azure said he and TERO staff members have a great working relationship with Tribal leadership.
“We are on the same page in where we are going with the program,” Azure said.
Azure acknowledged TERO staff members in attendance – Career Development Program Manager David DeHart, Administrative Assistant Lori Sterling, Secretary Keri Kimsey, Workforce Development Specialist Misty Carl and Compliance Officer Duke Kimsey.
“This staff is what makes TERO work,” said Azure. He also recognized TERO Commission member Lew Younger, the Tribe’s legal staff, Human Resources Department Manager Connie Holmes and her staff, and General Manager Dawn Doar.
Azure and Harvey then gifted Angela Ramos and Paul Joiner of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Office of Civil Rights with Native necklaces. Ramos is the Field and Business Support manager and Joiner is the Region 2 field coordinator. Later, they also honored David Dixon with a Native necklace. He is the Region 1 field coordinator of ODOT’s Civil Rights Office. Region 1 is the Portland metro area and Region 2 is the Eugene area.
“I had the pleasure of working with Angela for about 10 years in workforce development,” said Harvey. “Thank you for all your time and patience.”
Azure said TERO is actively recruiting participants because new construction projects are happening all the time.
“With this workforce, we are changing the region,” said Azure. “We have a lot more projects coming on line and our workforce is region-wide. The Oregon Department of Transportation and area contractors are in need of skilled workers so we are filling a gap there. We feel good about how that has worked for us. We’re focusing on the future.
“This is just a start. We’re just 13 months in. We will continue to expand what we can provide for resources. This is the start of that vision.”
Giffen said hard-working Tribal members are giving the Tribe a good reputation.
“I’m very proud, very honored and very humbled to stand before you and recognize you and thank you for the job you’ve done of going out there and being ambassadors for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde,” said Giffen. “Thank you for showing these contractors that we are hard-working people. We show up, we do the job correctly and you guys are doing a fantastic job.”
Azure said he sees Tribal members who are inspired by their successes and hungry for more.
“We see people dig deep and discover something about themselves,” said Azure. “Tonight we are here to honor that part of this that TERO represents. As you increase your skills and learning power, other things in your life come together.”