Del Mar Fairgrounds employees set to receive $500 ‘thank you’

Directors with the board that oversees the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds have decided to reward their employees for their work in 2016 with $500 gift cards that can be used to purchase gasoline or goods at local merchants.

The board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association approved the employee recognition awards at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

The district has about 180 full-time employees who are eligible for the award, and most are expected to receive the full amount of $500, said Tim Fennell, CEO and general manager for the fairgrounds. Fennell and his two deputy general managers are not eligible.

The Superior Accomplishment Awards Program, as it is called by the state, helps boost employee “morale and team spirit,” Fennell wrote in a report to the board. He noted in the report that the 22nd DAA’s net income for 2016, minus depreciation, was $3.7 million. The district’s 2017 operating budget includes expenses of $75.4 million.

“I know it’s important,” Fennell said of the reward program in an interview. “Our results demonstrate that. Your greatest asset is your people, and the two most powerful words in the English language are, ‘Thank you.’ This is a major thank you.”

The award for employees who did not work all of 2016 at the fairgrounds will be pro-rated, Fennell said. Each employee will be evaluated separately, and Fennell estimated that 10 to 15 percent would not receive awards.

The program has been in place since 1998, and was suspended in 2008, following the financial downturn, and again in 2011 and 2012 at the request of state officials, amid concerns that it did not comply with state personnel rules. It was reinstated about three years ago and the awards have been given to employees annually since then, Fennell said.

Employees will have their choice of gift cards from merchants such as Target or Home Depot or gasoline stations, he said.