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For outstanding service during and after Hurricane Katrina, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) program support assistant Althea Lane Hunt has been named the 2007 "ARS Office Professional of the Year." ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Based at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center's (SRRC) Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research Unit in New Orleans, Hunt was recognized for her exceptional service and performance of duties during and after the crises created there by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.  She received a plaque and cash award during at the ARS annual Recognition Program ceremony at the USDA's Jefferson Auditorium.

In addition to handling correspondence, travel arrangements, purchasing and other regular duties, Hunt played a key role in helping repatriate many of the 170 permanent SRRC employees who had been temporarily assigned to other ARS locations while the center underwent repairs for storm damage. Hunt herself was relocated to Athens, Ga. From there, she coordinated extensive travel arrangements for displaced SRRC personnel as well as handled temporary-duty processing associated with their eventual return to the center's Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research Unit and its Cotton Structure and Quality Research Unit (CSQRU).  Despite serving as program-support assistant for these two units, Hunt still managed to achieve one of SRRC's highest on-time travel completion rates.

"She did so despite being in unfamiliar surroundings and under significant personal duress, but maintained a positive attitude and upbeat manner that uplifted those around her," noted ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. Upon her own return to the center, which reopened in August 2006, Hunt helped train a new program assistant who had been hired for CSQRU to expedite that unit's operations and continuity of research.

"As a result of her outstanding service and extraordinary dedication, the lives of many SRRC employees were made easier and less stressful," Knipling added. "Ms. Hunt's exemplary performance and kindness make her truly deserving of this award."

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