Education Coordinator Kris Weixelman talks about the benefits of growning more food at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Education Coordinator Kris Weixelman talks about the benefits of growning more food at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

First-ever Department of Corrections awards banquet honors officers, educators

Daryl Webster, the assistant superintendent at Lemon Creek Correctional Center, looked out at a crowd of about 50 employees and their families Saturday and remarked at how so many people in the Juneau community don’t even think about the prison.

“People sleep easily in their bed at night because you stand watch in the night,” Webster said. “That’s also kind of sad, because they have no idea what you do.”

Saturday’s event, the first-ever LCCC Holiday &Awards Banquet, sought to give the prison’s employees a little recognition for their efforts. Superintendent Bob Cordle handed out awards to around 30 employees, including officers who are on call 24 hours a day in case of emergency, officers who transport prisoners from place to place, and weapons instructors.

The event also gave out Lifesaving Awards to three officers — Security Sgt. Jeremy Finlayson, Officer Gary Locke and Officer Michael Schramm — who were able to revive subjects who were attempting suicide this year. Cordle spoke at particular length about Locke, who was a nominee this year in the Crisis Responder category of the Governor’s Denali Peak Performance Awards.

“I’ve worked with DOC for 22 years and I’ve never had to do CPR,” Cordle said. “(Locke) was instrumental in saving the lives of more than one person.”

According to Security Sgt. Ron Shriver, who was one of the main organizers of the event, about 50 of the prison’s 73 employees were present and around 130 people in total were there. One employee not in attendance was the Employee of the Year, Kris Weixelman. The award was voted on by the entire staff, Shriver said.

Weixelman, as Cordle and Shriver explained, is one of two education coordinators and provides vital services to the population at LCCC. She helps with taxes, housing applications, testing for GEDs and more. She also manages the prison’s greenhouse and spearheaded a program that has inmates growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers with hopes to add more variety to that list.

“She does everything, and she does everything with a smile,” Shriver said. “We’re just incredibly grateful for her services.”

The event was about recognizing the work these employees do, but it was also to bring the employees’ families together. Shriver said they’ve started to plan events to get people together outside of work this year, including an Easter egg hunt this spring. Saturday’s dinner, which took place at the Moose Lodge, was the latest event in that vein.

The closeness of the employees was apparent, as Cordle had to explain inside jokes to the crowd multiple times. Children dashed around the room throughout the event, especially energized when Santa showed up to take pictures with them. Following the awards ceremony, employees and their families launched into karaoke to end the night.

Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, was the guest speaker and marveled at the way the employees face stressful and sometimes dangerous situations at work every day but still go to work every day. Cordle said there’s a great deal of danger to the job, but working in a prison involves sensitivity and compassion more than anything else.

“We’re not just about confinement,” Cordle said. “We are about setting examples, caring, coaching and mentoring. I have witnessed many of you standing outside of a stall door or walking down the halls of the institution giving words of encouragement to people who desperately need it.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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