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Independence employee honored for service

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Jeff Witte, a network systems engineer in the city of Independence’s tech services division, is this year's recipient of the Susan Paxton Block Award for Distinguished Public Service.

Jeff Witte, a network systems engineer in the city of Independence’s tech services division, is this year's recipient of the Susan Paxton Block Award for Distinguished Public Service.

The award is presented by the Junior Service League to a city employee, volunteer or elected official who has demonstrated outstanding public service, valor and job performance with leadership. Junior Service League Past President Stephanie Merriott, joining virtually, announced Witte as the winner during Monday's City Council meeting.

Witte has worked for the city for 14 years. In reading from his nomination, Merriott said Witte “has the patience of a saint” and “has been pulled in so many different directions, but is always willing to help.” 

“The Utilities Center would not be able to help customers during the pandemic without Jeff,” one nominator wrote.

In a release, Witte said he was “truly humbled” by the nomination.

“My team and I are usually behind the scenes working our hardest to keep the wheels turning and the city moving, so it’s rewarding to be noticed for it,” he said.

Block was a second-generation member and president of the JSL and represented the Third District from 1992 until her death due to cancer in 1996. 

Block's father, the late Bill Paxton, established the award to honor her memory and recognize individuals from city employees to volunteers. It generally is awarded around the time of Block’s birthday, Sept. 24, and members of her family are on hand for the award, though that was not the case this year due to the pandemic.

A selection committee, composed of local service club presidents, selects the recipient. The award includes a $1,000 plus a sterling silver medallion and a sterling silver lapel pin. Proceeds come from the memorial fund established by Paxton.