Cheryl Ducharme of Hardwick and Jonathan Harries of Montpelier were recognized with a Distinguished Government Service award Monday during the Vermont Federal Executive Association’s Public Service Recognition Week ceremony in Colchester. Ducharme and Harries were nominated for the award in recognition of their efforts to improve how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers its Rural Development renewable energy and energy efficiency loan and grant program.
"Cheryl and Jonathan have helped deliver hundreds of grants and loans totaling tens of millions of dollars to rural small businesses and farmers helping to reduce energy costs," said USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. "They deserved this award because of their willingness to put the customer first and make sure our programs were being delivered in a way that balanced common sense and good government."
Ducharme and Harries discovered an anomaly in the Renewable Energy for America Program, a grant and loan guarantee program for businesses and farms seeking financial assistance building renewable energy systems or implementing energy efficiency measures. The glitch required an applicant to purchase a bond to guarantee a contractor’s performance even if the work was already completed when the federal government reimbursed the applicant. Ducharme and Harries pointed out the anomaly, worked with their counterparts to identify a solution and found a way to save applicants tens of thousands of dollars that can now be used to save more energy.
Ducharme is a Business Programs Specialist with USDA Rural Development. Her primary role at USDA is to administer the agency’s Renewable Energy for America Program in Vermont and New Hampshire. Ducharme is also the regional lead on the grant and loan program – offering technical assistance to other states along the eastern seaboard and providing guidance to headquarters staff.
Harries is the State Engineer and Environmental Coordinator for USDA Rural Development. He provides engineering and environmental oversight and advice across Rural Development’s more than 40 grant and loan programs with an emphasis on water, wastewater and renewable energy projects.
The Vermont Federal Executive Association holds its annual awards ceremony the first week of May each year to coincide with Public Service Recognition Week which runs from May 4th – 10th this year. Nearly 40 individuals and groups were nominated for nine separate Distinguished Government Service Awards in 2014. The Vermont Federal Executive Association is a voluntary organization of federal managers and administrators that works together to foster improved cooperation and improved working relationships among federal agencies in Vermont. The organization represents more than 4,000 federal employees that work in Vermont.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $197 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Learn more about Rural Development.