A break from bad news

1990, when we started the Federal 100 awards, our world seemed quite different. The Web was still a dream, a different Bush was president, and Margaret Thatcher dominated the other side of the pond.

What has remained the same is that, in election years, politicians regularly run against Washington, D.C., and all the people who work for the government. Government service is portrayed as the haven of loafers and the home of the underworked. The $500 hammers epitomize the rhetoric of the time.

Frank Reeder, who was head of the policy branch in the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in 1990, wanted to celebrate the good things that happen in government and recognize the achievers.

With his help, we put together this program. Nominations would come from Federal Computer Week readers. Judges would span government and industry, and winners could be from either.

Some rules were established early. The winners would be an All-Star team, not a Hall of Fame. No one should be honored simply for doing his or her job. Winners must have performed above and beyond the standard. This would not be a popularity contest — some winners may be controversial. Not

all change is positive. The issue was whether or not the person made a difference and was an agent of change. The judges would help verify any claims that they could not personally substantiate.

We had a lot of discussion about how many people to include. Reporters who were going to be writing the bios always argued for the Federal 50. But we ultimately decided 100 people out of this growing and talented marketplace was a modest and reasonable number to celebrate.

When we finished that first list, we knew we had something. Many are still players in the marketplace, although often with different organizations. In that the first Federal 100 class, winners included Linda Berdine, Rhoda Cantor, Tom Hewitt, Phil Kiviat, Tony Valletta, Marty Wagner, Dan Young and Dendy Young.

At the annual awards gala, we decided to stay with the celebration theme by keeping speeches to a minimum and providing entertainment instead.

To understand another's point of view, it is said you must walk in that person's shoes. I got that chance in 2000, when, to my surprise, I won a Federal 100 award.

The ceremony was scheduled for a time that was in the middle of my family vacation. I decided not to miss the celebration, so I flew in a series of small planes from the Outer Banks in North Carolina to Washington, D.C., to understand what it really feels like to be a Fed 100. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

In our first announcement of the program, we said, "News, by its very nature, is often bad news. This program is our way of saying thanks for what can be an often thankless task."

It still is. It is still a privilege to be a part of the celebration.

Armstrong is Federal Computer Week's publisher. She served as FCW's editor in chief from 1992 to 1999 and was a Federal 100 winner in 2000.

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