Aileen Walker voted People’s Champion 2021

A dedicated school support services manager was crowned People’s Champion 2021 at Aberdeen City Council’s Star Awards virtual ceremony, last night (Thursday 16 September).

Aileen Walker, School Support Services Manager, Bucksburn Academy, was left “speechless” when she learnt she had won.

The Star Awards are the Council’s annual staff recognition awards, which includes the People’s Champion – the only award category, which sees council employees and teams nominated and voted for by the public.

The nominations submitted were reviewed by representatives from local voluntary groups before the finalists were agreed by an external panel.

The Star Awards organisers had originally thought there be would three finalists however the public’s nominations were so compelling the external judging panel decided that four finalists should be put forward for the chance of becoming People’s Champion 2021.

Aberdonians were then invited to vote for their favourite from the four finalists.

The finalists were:

  • Aileen Walker, School Support Services Manager, Bucksburn Academy
  • Protective Services (Environmental Health and Trading Standards)
  • Sharon Desbois, Youth Development Officer, based at Lochside Academy
  • Regional Communications Centre (Community Alarms and Emergency Repairs)

Nominations for Aileen included:

“Aileen works tirelessly to support all the pupils and staff at Bucksburn Academy. She never refuses to help with any task no matter how busy she is. She is always very understanding and compassionate. Whatever the time or day of the week, she never fails to have a smile on her face.”

“Aileen goes above and beyond to support all pupils at the academy to make sure that their needs are met. She is highly regarded by her colleagues at the school, pupils and parents/carers past and present.

“Aileen is always the first person in the building and the last to leave. She is very kind and welcoming and has time for everyone. She is the absolute beating heart of Bucksburn Academy.”

Angela Scott, Chief Executive, Aberdeen City Council said: “The Star Awards offer us the opportunity as an organisation to acknowledge the dedication and enthusiasm of our employees and highlight just some of the very best examples of our first-rate work force.

“The People’s Champion is a special award because the finalists are nominated by the public as is the winner so huge congratulations go to Aileen Walker, a very worthy winner.”

Aberdeen City Council leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “Our staff are second to none and the Star Awards allows us out with working hours to consider the positive impact that they have on individuals and communities across the city.”

“I would like to thank the public for taking the time to submit nominations and then vote for the council employee or team they thought should be People’s Champion. The public’s involvement is the very reason why the People’s Champion award is so special.”

Aileen Walker, People’s Champion 2021, said: “I can’t quite believe it. Colleagues at every school in the city are going above and beyond every day in their dedication and enthusiasm to help all our pupils and each other and I accept this very special award on behalf of us all.

“I feel so humbled and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for me but every member of Team Bucksburn is fantastic and I’m so fortunate to work alongside such amazing colleagues, wonderful pupils and the wider school community.”

Star Awards 2021 finalists and winners (in bold) are listed below:

Rising Star

Value | Pride

Recognising a member of staff who has made a significant impact within in a new role. This could be a young person starting out in their career, an apprentice, or anyone who's recently joined the organisation or moved to a new role.

The finalists:

  • Jenni Lawson, Legal Services Manager
  • Christie Milne, City Events Executive
  • Reyna Stewart, Analytics and Insight Manager, Customer - Data Insights

Health & Wellbeing

Purpose I Pride I Team

Recognising people who have made a highly effective contribution to promoting or improving health and wellbeing within the City Council or for the people of Aberdeen.

The finalists:

  • The Governance Comms Team
  • Corporate Health and Safety Team (COVID-19)
  • Life Stars Project, Dyce Academy SFL


Purpose | Pride | Team

Recognising excellence in innovation to solve a problem or make things better; and celebrating people whose commitment to making improvements and reach measurable outcomes.

The finalists:

  • Aftercare Support Team
  • D365 Team
  • Bookbug Team, City Libraries

Inspirational Leadership
Value I Trust
Recognising individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership regardless of grade or role.

The finalists:

  • Sandie Scott, People & Organisation Dev Advisor
  • Chris Cormack, Team Leader, Public Transport Unit
  • Margaret Sweetnam, Marketing Manager, Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums

Purpose I Pride I Team

Recognising excellent collaboration that spans the boundaries between teams, clusters, or partner organisations.

The finalists:

  • Billy Nicol, Practice Improvement Officer
  • Crisis Response Service Team
  • Prescription Delivery Team (A cross sector team including Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership Project management, Community Development, NHS Grampian Pharmacy Services, Aberdeen City Council’s Customer Services Team and Talent Team.

Pride in Public Service
Purpose I Pride
Recognising exceptional service delivery.

The finalists:

  • Ian Talboys, Countryside Officer
  • Emma Shanks, Lead Customer Experience Officer
  • Gwyneth Mcwilliam, Faculty Head of Science, Bridge of Don Academy (retired)

Team of the Year

Team I Pride I Purpose

Recognising a team who have either achieved outstanding performance and customer satisfaction or worked in a focused and unified way to deliver a desired objective for the organisation or the city.

The finalists:

  • Aberdeen Crematorium
  • Registrars
  • Corporate device refresh/roll out project team

Outstanding Contribution

Pride I Team I Purpose I Value I Trust

Nominations for this category were drawn from those submitted for each of the above categories. They could include any outstanding contribution to the work of the council or an outstanding contribution a council team or employer may have made on a personal level to the citizens of Aberdeen. 

Winners Marek Zaczkowski, Refuse Loader, Graham Leiper, Refuse Loader and Graeme Moir, Lead Charge Hand Driver, who all work for the Council’s Operations and Protective Services.  The trio had been nominated in the People’s Champion category.