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Unsung Heroes: Week of April 27, 2020

Post Date:04/27/2020 3:00 PM

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo Heroes!

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo (HHPZ) is a place that many of us have visited with friends and family for decades. However, HHPZ is one of the many City facilities that has temporarily closed its doors to the public as the City complies with the Bay Area’s Stay-at-Home public health order to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the days leading up to the Stay-at-Home order being issued, HHPZ staff began adopting new safety precautions into their operations, including physical distancing, to comply with this new reality.

Although HHPZ has not been open to the public since mid-March, Kevin Hertell, Zoo Manager at HHPZ, recently told us that there are approximately 150 individual animals of 60 different species that have been cared for during HHPZ’s closure. It takes a team effort to care for these animals, ensuring their health and entertainment, and that team consists of the Zoo Manager, Zoo Curator, Veterinary Technician, Senior Zoo Keepers, Zoo Keepers, and other staff who provide additional support.


Without visitors passing through the zoo each day, Kevin stated, “Zoo Keepers are providing extra enrichment for the animals to make up for the lack of sounds, smells, sights and interactions that they get from our guests.” Kevin went on to say that the lack of visitors at HHPZ is “odd and interesting. We are all used to having visitors around,” adding that “it is interesting to see how the different animals react to the lack of visitors. Some remain very relaxed and others take extra interest whenever a staff member walks by.”


Kevin expressed immense pride in the team at HHPZ as they have handled these challenges and adapted to this new normal, stating, “The whole team has been very supportive of each other and have come up with solutions to make it easier to deal with this evolving situation. Our staff is very mindful, and very grateful, that the City recognizes the importance of our animal ambassadors and offers us the ability to care for them in the essential ways that they need and deserve!”

Thank you to Kevin Hertell, Heather Vrzal, Nathan Andrews, Melissa Young, Kylie Ahlo, Hannah Alger, Mariah Burns, Amanda Maulding, Alma Morales, Brandy Oliver, Kaitlyn Phillips, Theresa Plass, Emma Trollman, A.J. Walsh, Elena Bauske-Khalar, John Beaver, Taylor Boardman, Jeffrey Campbell, Alyssa Castillou, Ruth Laird, Brooke Robinson, Elena Seto, Sandra Wallis, Michelle Walsh, Rachel Atkins, and all of the other staff involved in these efforts!

City Timekeeper Heroes!

Employees count on their paychecks arriving every two weeks without fail, and without error. The City's timekeepers play a huge role here, and they are working even harder since COVID-19.


Every department has at least one timekeeper. They are the people who send you reminders to complete your timecard every pay period, check the accuracy of timecards, and ensure that timecards are approved and submitted to Payroll on time. The complexity of this work depends on many factors, including whether employees are in the same bargaining unit and governed by the same labor rules. Lulu Song, the Library's timekeeper, estimated it took about a third of her time - three to four days every two weeks - to process approximately 600 time cards for employees in 1 bargaining unit. In another case, DOT has 7 bargaining units and 1 employee unit, for a total of eight 8 different labor contracts to navigate. In normal times it took three people, Diana Reyes, Diem Vu, and Me Me Thet Nwe to process approximately 450 time cards in a similar amount of time.

But, COVID-19 required new rules. All employees must now code their work as: regular, administrative leave, or COVID-19-related. Timekeepers must ensure that that work is coded correctly and that those doing emergency-related work provide detailed time and task records to preserve the City's option to seek FEMA reimbursement. Now, every timecard has to be carefully inspected and corrected if wrong. The changes garnered many questions from employees. Lulu recalled helping her colleagues through the changes, “I would try to be comforting. I would tell them, don't worry. We'll fix it."


Working remotely has also made timekeeping more challenging. Nevertheless, deadlines still must be met, and Diana and Diem have taken to working on Sundays during payroll week to ensure that they catch and correct errors before Payroll's final corrections deadline on Tuesday. Even after asking a colleague to help her with the work, Lulu estimated her timekeeping workload has increased threefold; Diana, said her workload had doubled.

Lulu and Diana say they’re appreciative of the help they've received from Payroll and OER in implementing the new rules, and believe the process is improving with each pay period. "Diem and I have come to understand that it's never going to be perfect," Diana said. "People are going to make mistakes. We just have to correct it. Being patient and making sure that we meet the deadline, that's what makes me happy. We did it, we made the deadline. Now we can get back to our other jobs."

Thank you to Lulu and Diana for assisting us with this story! Thank you to the following timekeepers and all of the other staff who have stepped in during these challenging times:

Michelle Saechao, Sarah Sanchez, Joan O’Keefe, Michael Ballatore, Eileen Kim, Khanh Do-Nguyen, Sean Monlux, Diana Reyes, Diem Vu, Me Me Thet New, Katherine Berryhill, Jessica Lowry, Julie Chiou, Becki Gervin, Kate Handford, Elaine Trinh, Lulu Song, Pawan Kaur, Charu Thiyagarajan, Joy Rodriguez, Violeta Velazquez, Kristy Tricoli, Stephanie Silva, Gabby Clemente, Steven Pang, Jeannette Tamayo, Kathy La, Deborah Sattler, Johnny Nguyen, Trang Vo, Melissa Patterson, Madie Pavon, Suzanne McPherson, Sandra Dennis, Alexandria Martinez, Sangita Singh, Anna Rodriguez, Lori Venzon, Baljinder Jhalle, Katty Alvarez, Rajvir Dosanjh, Ann Tu, Hsin-Ping Lee, Tony Nguyen, Dina Garcia, Michelle Harrison, Margarita Malapitan, Nhung Nguyen, Connie Dinh, Lupe Gonzalez, Christi Salinas, Mariela Figueroa, Claudia Villagomez, Alyssa Villanueva, Dale Souza and Esther Kim!

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