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Released November 4, 2003


LONG BEACH - Dr. Thomas Payne, associate professor at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, received the Distinguished Public Servant Award Friday at the Gulf Park campus.

Mississippi state auditor Phil Bryant was on hand to present Payne with the award.

"Dr. Payne is a great public servant, and he has had a great impact on the lives of many teens," Bryant said. "It is time he was recognized, and we at the state auditor's office are glad to do so."

Two years ago the state auditor's office saw a need to honor public employees who make a difference through public service. In response, the Distinguished Public Servant Award was implemented.

Bruce Roberts of Gulfport nominated Payne for this award for the work he has done with helping at-risk teens with the Citizenship Justice Academy (CJA).

"I nominated Dr. Payne for this award for establishing and directing the CJA, with no remuneration and in addition to his other duties," Roberts said. "Several graduates have given testimonials that CJA changed their lives."

These other duties include chief judge for Gulfport Municipal Court, associate professor at Southern Miss Gulf Coast, lawyer and security consultant.

For Payne, public service is not about looking at the public as a whole but about helping individuals.

"I humbly accept this award on behalf of the many men and women of the Gulfport City Court and The University of Southern Mississippi who see their role of public service as not just serving an anonymous public, but rather serving each member of the public as an individual with unique talents and worth, contributing to the people's well being one person at a time," Payne said.

Payne founded CJA in 2002 along with the help of the Gulf Coast Business Services Corporation.

Roberts said that since the program has started, dozens of participants have completed the program, which includes a curriculum of civics lessons, character training and GED preparation along with life and job skills.

The participants of this program must also register to vote and make considerable progress toward seeking a job.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM