Outstanding City of Aspen employees saved lives, money | AspenTimes.com

Outstanding City of Aspen employees saved lives, money

Aspen Police Officer Ritchie Zah is one of three nominees for the city of Aspen’s Black Diamond Award.

Aspen police officer Ritchie Zah came across an unconscious, wrecked cyclist at Bernard Park last spring and likely saved the man's life.

On April 29, Zah was the first emergency responder at the scene of the crash. Aspen police Sgt. Robert Fabrocini said the cardiologist who treated the cyclist said it was Zah's quick response, administration of an automated external defibrillator and continued chest compressions that saved him, adding that the victim had more than likely already flatlined when Zah arrived to the scene.

"The most rewarding thing we can do in our career as a police officer is to save a life. On April 29, 2015, officer Zah did just that," said Fabrocini, who nominated Zah for the city's Black Diamond Award.

The city of Aspen will present Zah and two other staff members with the Black Diamond Award today at an Aspen City Council meeting.

The award, formerly known as the Outstanding Employee Award, is the city's most prestigious award, and the program has been going on for at least a decade, city Human Resources Director Alissa Farrell said.

Eligible employees are those who show a consistent commitment to the city's values outside normal job requirements or make a unique and significant contribution to their department, the city or the community outside their normal job requirements, Farrell said.

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"It's important for an organization to let their employees know they're valued," Community Relations Director Mitzi Rapkin said.

On June 25, Golf Department Irrigation Coordinator Pete Pelinski was working at the Rotary Field when he heard a distant cry coming from Maroon Creek. Pelinski left his work to trail the sound and discovered an injured mountain biker far down the slope from Tiehack Road.

After calling 911, Pelinski remained by the cyclist's side and assisted the paramedics upon their arrival despite having no formal first aid experience himself.

The cyclist, who suffered a broken ankle, vertebrae and collarbone, was taken by ambulance to Aspen Valley Hospital and later flown to Denver for emergency care.

Parks, Open Space and Trails ranger Brian Long, who nominated Pelinski for the Black Diamond Award, said Pelinski's "situational awareness and commitment" served as a reminder to the Parks Department of what circumstances may require when least expected.

"Pete was someone's guardian angel that day and was a strong role model of the city's values," Long said.

While not all city roles involve saving lives, Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority administrative assistant Caitlyn Cunningham reportedly saved the housing authority a lot of money when she took someone else's job.

The housing authority contracted a part-time employee — who left unexpectedly — to assist the authority during the sales process for Burlingame Ranch Phase II.

The hired employee's responsibilities included keeping track of all applicants online, reservations, consulting with the sales manager during contracts, contacting applicants on the housing list, etc. — all of which Cunningham took on while still managing her own job after the other employee left.

Aside from saving the housing authority around $20,640, Cunningham always has a "professional, can-do attitude and eager-to-help personality," Operations Manager Cindy Christensen said.

Christensen, who nominated Cunningham for the Black Diamond Award, said Cunningham exemplifies the city of Aspen's values through her "quality, service, professionalism, integrity, honesty, effectiveness, fiscal responsibility, communications and service to the community."

erobbie@aspentimes.com