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Public Service Recognition Awards 2024

In the spirit of recognizing state employees that consistently excel above expectations, each year we call for nominations for the Extra Mile Award, and the Excellence in Washington State Government Leadership Award. Here are the recipients of those awards announced in time for Public Service Recognition Week, the first week of May, 2024.

See photos of the awards ceremony on May 7, 2024.

Extra Mile Award

The Extra Mile Award is given to individuals or groups of state employees who surpass expectations for exemplary public service by demonstrating innovative techniques and methods, outstanding leadership, visionary thinking, commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion , and outstanding customer service.

2024 Extra Mile Award recipients

As Amira's supervisor, I have seen them excel in the many workstreams that they have taken part in. Beyond their everyday excellence, they have shown themselves to be deeply committed to equity in the implementation of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in Washington. In the past year, I have had the privilege of learning from Amira as they've led trust-building work to engage Tribal partners in building 988 in Washington and transforming the mental-health crisis care continuum. This work is no small feat considering the state’s historical challenges with properly supporting and engaging Indigenous communities.

Amira has supported intentional decision-making that has often led up within our cross-agency team in ways that drive us to make more meaningful engagement efforts. They have shown up with patience and strength and flexed their historical social worker muscles when confronting crucial conversations.

Amira has also become a subject matter expert in their legislative work, creating tools for our team to track the impact of legislation and decisions around 988 in all policy-making settings. They’ve worked to build tools that promote collaboration from partners and the public in rule-making efforts and tools that proactively support the 988 team to fill knowledge gaps on engagement work.

Amira recently began to mentor other members of the team around navigating legislative session, bill analyses, and hearings. They demonstrate that leadership at all levels is not only possible, but essential for success. On a project that aims to respond in times of crisis, with legislative mandates that move the work at the speed of light, Amira is a beacon of calm. They lead through their values, thoughtful inquiry and well-timed laughs that support our team to think strategically and not just quickly, despite external pressures.

Nominated by Elaina I Perry

Angela Berg exemplifies excellence through her leadership, commitment to inclusivity and educational expertise at the Department of Licensing. Her initiative—a unique driver knowledge testing system for neurodivergent individuals—not only revolutionized accessibility within the DOL, but also embodies the department's purpose statement, "Helping every Washington resident live, work, drive, and thrive."

Recognizing the limitations of traditional testing for neurodivergent individuals, Angela developed an alternative knowledge assessment system. This system incorporates diverse learning styles and sensory perceptions, ensuring fair and accurate evaluations without compromising testing standards. Her system recognizes the limitations of traditional methods and paves the way for inclusive testing practices across diverse populations.

Beyond individual accessibility, Angela's visionary leadership fostered empathy and innovation. Championing neurodivergent needs, she inspired her team through a collaborative approach, fueling the project from inception to implementation. Rooted in equity, Angela's tireless advocacy seeks to dismantle systemic biases, ensuring equal access to driving privileges through an innovative testing system. By dismantling barriers, individuals are empowered to participate fully in their communities, upholding the core values of diversity and inclusion. Her commitment also extends beyond accessibility, creating a welcoming and supportive environment with tailored solutions for a positive and dignified testing experience for every participant.

In conclusion, Angela Berg's impact extends beyond driver knowledge testing. She is a leader, an innovator and a champion for inclusivity. Her work embodies the highest ideals of public service, transforming lives and paving the way for a more equitable and accessible future. Her nomination for this award is a testament to her extraordinary contributions and her unwavering commitment to serving the entire Washington community.

Nominated by Daniel Cooke

The 2023–24 Leadership for the Disability Inclusion Network (DIN) Business Resource Group has a passion for evolving an inclusive and accessible workplace for people with disabilities throughout the state enterprise.

As volunteers to the work of DIN, the DIN leadership team of Linda, Stuart, Maggie and Sarah have been responsive and informative, leading conversations, action and concrete guidance in braiding inclusive practices around ASL, neuro-divergence, mental health, digital accessibility, recruitment and reasonable accommodations into the fabric of state agencies. They partner with peer BRG groups, agencies and individuals to support the DIN mission.

They reformatted the DIN general meetings to allow more time for members to engage in committee work and advocated strongly for ASL and CART usage in all BRG general meetings as a way to also welcome Deaf and Deaf Blind state employees into the broad work of the BRGs.

The DIN leadership understand the intersectionality inherent in disability—people with disabilities exist within all communities and identities—and the leadership group forges alliances and collaborations to ensure the belonging of people with disabilities of all backgrounds in the state enterprise. The DIN leadership is passionate, caring, creative, motivated and seemingly tireless in forwarding the mission of the Disability Inclusion Network.

Nominated by Michael MacKillop

The overdose crisis in Washington state has reached unprecedented levels and has taken a terrible toll on our communities. Although it is easy to overlook or ignore a public health crisis that may occur behind closed doors or in marginalized and stigmatized populations, the Drug User Health Team in the Office of Infectious Disease has been working tirelessly in response. Their support of tribes, local health jurisdictions, community-based organizations and other partners has saved the lives of countless Washingtonians and strengthened public health systems across the state.

One of their main programs, the Overdose Education & Naloxone Distribution (OEND) Program, has provided nearly 400,000 naloxone kits since April 2019 to organizations serving people most likely to experience or witness opioid overdose. They also provide support to syringe service programs (SSPs) in Washington, which are frontline public health programs that provide critical services to people who use drugs.

The core of these efforts is to support the health of people who use drugs in a non-judgmental and client-centered atmosphere. In 2023, SSPs supported by the Drug User Health Team provided nearly 90,000 encounters, 25,000 referrals to services and 60,000 naloxone kits to people who use drugs.

In the past year, the Team has:

  • Developed a data system to improve engagement with the OEND program.
  • Developed a naloxone distribution program to support tribes and Urban Indian organizations.
  • Partnered with a community organization to implement the state's mail-order naloxone program.
  • Supported a new funding process to resource 20 SSPs, including incorporating harm reduction service navigation and clinical services.
  • Designed multimedia materials and trainings to educate partners about topics such as how to respond to an overdose and how to use fentanyl test strips.
  • Provided expertise in support of HCA's Health Engagement Hubs and Substance Use Recovery Services Advisory Committee

Nominated by Emalie Huriaux

The ESD Mentorship Program is quickly becoming the most well-known staff development project in ESD history, but has been managed and grown by a little-known group of staff behind the scenes. The ESD Mentorship Planning Team, made up of a rag-tag group of ESD staff from various divisions across the agency, has taken an idea in its infancy and turned it into a fully viable, substantial and successful employee development program with high praise from all who have participated.

The Team, led primarily by Nadine Nabass (Leave & Care, but recently promoted into a position in our EDI office), met bi-weekly, planning, marketing, and promoting the program; finding efficiencies in how the program was to be implemented; offering presentations to most divisions across ESD; and selling the positives with participation as mentors and mentees.

Their collective efforts have been very successful, growing the program this past year from about 90 in the first cohort, to 156 in the second cohort, to 198 in the third cohort, and finally, a grand total of 292 going into our fourth cohort. In short, this team has driven this important development program that benefits all ESD employees by an incredible three-fold, or 320%!

The “big win” this past year was the Team’s push to get more leaders involved as mentors. The combination of concentrated discussions directly with executives and division leaders was extremely effective—so much so that one division, Employment Connections, strongly encouraged every manager and above to participate by adding it to performance expectations. That’s impact. That’s teamwork. That’s going the extra mile! Congratulations to the ESD Mentorship Planning Team for making a significant difference for our ESD family!

Nominated by Gregory Chilson

I am pleased to nominate the ESD NS EDI team for their outstanding work in developing the EDI SMART Goal Tool, a transformative initiative aimed at fostering cultural competence and advancing equity and inclusion within our organization. This innovative tool not only reflects the team's dedication to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, but also aligns seamlessly with our organization's Pro-Equity and Anti-Racism Plan.

The EDI Smart Goal Tool represents a significant milestone in our journey towards creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace. By providing employees with culturally competent expectations, the tool empowers individuals to navigate diverse interactions with sensitivity and respect. Through its user-friendly interface and comprehensive resources, the tool equips supervisors to work with their employees, building knowledge and skills needed to cultivate an inclusive environment where all voices are heard and valued.

Moreover, the tool directly supports our organization's commitment to meeting the expectations outlined in the PEAR directive signed by the governor. By incorporating principles of equity and anti-racism into everyday practices and decision-making processes, the tool helps us advance towards the goal of dismantling systemic barriers and promoting fairness and justice for all.

Not only does the tool enhance our organizational culture, but it also positions us to better serve our diverse communities and stakeholders. By fostering cultural competence and understanding, we can more effectively engage with individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives, ultimately strengthening our relationships and impact as an organization.

In summary, the NS EDI team's creation of the EDI Smart Goal Tool exemplifies their commitment to driving meaningful change and promoting equity and inclusion within our organization. Their dedication to this initiative deserves recognition and appreciation, as it not only aligns with our organizational values but also contributes to the realization of our broader EDI and PEAR goals.

Nominated by Ric Farinas

Truly outstanding leaders place their team’s safety as their highest priority. WSDOT Highway Maintenance Worker Haydan Francis showed true leadership when his team was faced with danger and adversity on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.

That day, Haydan Francis was preparing his team to leave the Washtucna maintenance shed when an individual came onto the property and climbed into a WSDOT truck. Haydan approached and asked what he was doing, to which the individual responded, “I’m taking your truck.” Unknown to Haydan at the time, this individual was on a violent crime spree that started in Yakima and had left others injured.

Once Haydan noticed the individual was irrational, covered in blood and possessed a pistol, he had a decision to make. It was an easy decision for him: Protect his team. Haydan stepped away from the man while keeping a watchful eye as he initiated his plan to protect the team. Hayden directed a team member to call 911 while also directing his team to move into the maintenance building for shelter. Haydan continued to be in protection mode as the truck departed the WSDOT property.

Haydan instructed his team to leave the building and get into their trucks to travel to a safe location in case this individual returned. After a few minutes, the individual did return, potentially looking for a different vehicle to take, but due to Haydan’s directions, there were no WSDOT vehicles left. The individual began traveling towards Ritzville and led WSP on a high-speed chase, ultimately destroying the vehicle.

Haydan demonstrated himself to be an outstanding leader that day, making the safety of his team the focus of his decisions. He did not run or act irrationally, and instead made decisions based on the most important leadership principle, keeping his team safe.

Nominated by Kurt Kaufman

The Market Planners in the Auctions & Market Section for the Cap-and-Invest Program have demonstrated a commitment to DEI by confronting workplace bigotry head-on, despite being junior staff who naturally feel vulnerable in their first positions in state government.

The Cap-and-Invest Program was stood up on an extremely accelerated timeline. As only the second state in the nation to implement such a program, they have been essential in accomplishing in months what California’s much larger staff took years to do. Faced with being the first point of contact for most participants in the program, they’ve developed innovative solutions to registering over a hundred entities in the Cap-and-Invest Program's first year.

Matt, Katie and Alex have demonstrated visionary thinking as self-starters that identify problems in user and entity registrations and have demonstrated leadership through their collaboration on “shovel-ready” solutions which they present to their colleagues and superiors. They consistently identify potential problems before they become realized problems—and then develop solutions and preventative measures.

The three of them are active participants in a multinational, multijurisdictional working group shaping the design and implementation of the platforms Washington and other states will use to tackle the climate crisis. Matt is the expert on the tracking system and a key product tester. Alex has risen to be the office expert on public records requests and requests related to litigation in a highly contentious program. Katie was the natural choice to step into a senior role while a colleague is out on extended leave, conducting auctions that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars.

The three of them have offered outstanding customer service by fielding thousands of time-sensitive emails and phone calls from parties navigating a new and complex program, often enduring hostility. Matt, Katie, and Alex demonstrate excellent leadership and followership.

Nominated by Scott Hancock

I am pleased to nominate Dr. Max Roberts for the Extra Mile Award in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. In less than three short years since joining the commission, Dr. Roberts has employed innovative techniques and methods that have enhanced the accessibility of traffic safety data. Through the creation of dozens of new data dashboards, he has transformed the way partners, stakeholders and the public interact with crucial information. His visionary thinking has garnered national recognition, particularly for his efforts to improve the quality and accuracy of impaired driver data.

In addition to his data visualization and groundbreaking impairment work, Dr. Roberts has displayed outstanding leadership by fostering collaboration among diverse groups. He actively engages with partners and stakeholders, locally and nationally, sharing ideas and knowledge to reduce traffic fatalities and save lives. He serves as an active member of the commission’s Pro-Equity, Anti-Racism (PEAR) committee, discussing and applying diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices within the agency, across traffic safety programming, and in his efforts as a data analyst.

His commitment to outstanding customer service is evident in his efforts to provide regular dashboard demonstrations, as well as one-on-one trainings to ensure that novice and experienced individuals can comfortably interact with and understand traffic safety data.

Dr. Roberts' dedication to the ideals of the Extra Mile Award is evident in every aspect of his work. His passion for public service, commitment to diversity and inclusion, innovative methods, outstanding leadership, visionary thinking, and unparalleled customer service make him a deserving candidate for this award. His contributions have not only elevated the Washington Traffic Safety Commission but have also had a lasting impact on traffic safety initiatives, setting a high standard for public service excellence.

Nominated by Terry Ponton

I am nominating the Mobile CSO Trucks Team for the Extra Mile Award because of their outstanding efforts managing the implementation and deployment of our new Mobile Outreach Trucks. This team understood the need to reach populations in new and innovative ways and leveraged the success of CSD’s existing large Mobile CSO trucks concept to envision, plan and deploy six smaller, more flexible trucks to serve communities across the state.

They can reach DSHS clients at migrant work camps, senior centers and other community events such as health and job fairs and locations previously unserved by CSD staffers. Rural households who find the trip to their local CSO too far to travel now have access to services that roll into their hometown and park at accessible destinations. The services the Mobile CSOs offer range from new applications for service, reviews, and changes for active cases, as well as issuing EBT cards and receiving documents. They also determine eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs and Aged, Blind or Disabled Medicaid. The reach of the new Mobile Outreach trucks strengthens partnerships with businesses and service organizations in diverse communities.

This team of outstanding employees went the extra mile to ensure that the six new trucks would have all the equipment needed to improve participation in the Basic Food program by providing services at locations where DSHS representatives do not usually have a presence, strengthening community partnerships by expanding on existing relationships to create access points, and operating as a response vehicle for disaster recovery efforts. These efforts exemplify outstanding leadership and visionary thinking to ensure we can provide outstanding customer service in places other than brick-and-mortar establishments.

Nominated by Babs Roberts

The innovative techniques and methods of the Policy Unit of Washington State’s AGO are shown in their exploration of opportunities to increase participation in government. This includes investigating opportunities to increase community engagement through researching community compensation and accounting for lived circumstances (ADA compliance, use of common language, consideration of meeting time, etc.).

Their outstanding leadership has lifted up community leaders. Examples include convening community members and individuals who have experienced incarceration to share experiences, voices and expertise to create meaningful change in Washington’s jails and being entrusted with the stories of survivors and loved ones impacted by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMWIP) crisis to pursue justice.

The unit is visionary in their thinking on important issues for Washingtonians. They lead the nation in MMWIP work, centering experiences, recommendations and suggestions from impacted Indigenous communities to solve the crisis. They are also committed to environmental justice through the implementation of the HEAL act, a coordinated approach for state agencies to reduce environmental and health disparities in Washington and improve the health of Washington state residents.

The unit is committed to DEI goals which:

  • Encourage participation in the policymaking process by
  • increasing community outreach to cultivate trust and accountability and
  • improving accessibility and engagement with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color and historically excluded communities.
  • Honor tribal sovereignty and elevate the voices of Indigenous people and people of color to reduce the power imbalance between historically excluded communities and policy makers.

The Policy Unit’s outstanding customer service is demonstrated by their ability to meet the people where they are. They are a trusted policy expert for the state legislature, a convener for communities invested in the work of taskforces, and communicate in a manner accessible for all ages, as demonstrated by their work on the youth tipline.

Nominated by Savanna Navarro Kresse

Rhonda Mendel exudes dedication to team leadership, with visionary thinking and a constant focus on customer service, while creating DEI opportunities for all. She uses her talents and background in organizing events and training opportunities for all state, tribal, city, county and college staff.

Rhonda isn’t just limited to in-person events such as her team’s OCS Summit, threat hunting training, Ice Cream Socials, in-person escape rooms, WaTech Strategic Planning sessions, Vendor Forums, and all-hands events, where she contributes to the success of each, often accommodating the dietary needs for hundreds and creating an opportunity to LevelUp.

Rhonda also organizes virtual training events reaching out to thousands with HISP training programs, Cybersecurity Awareness month and the GOVFollowMyLead course. Rhonda coordinated 14 speakers and facilitated both live and recorded events for nearly 1,000 employees, who attended approximately 2.5 events during Awareness month. She even renewed WaTech’s contract for Sign Interpreters used during DEI/AI presentations.

#FollowMyLead is a ten-month leadership program which Rhonda cofounded four years ago for women in government, which this year will include all who want to learn techniques in leading in their current role and, with huddle group mentoring, often promote into higher leadership roles. Leading the way in written communications, she assists in creating and distributing the WaTech “OCS Update” and distributes OPDP’s “Privacy Points” via email and GOVDelivery.

Her newest technical challenge is collating all Security Data into one PowerBI Dashboard for State CIOs and CISOs review. Reflecting on the challenges of a geographically dispersed technical security team, she launched a new employee onboarding routine includes regular check-ins and meet-and-greets with a focus on breaking down workgroup silos. Ralph Johnson, State CISO, says he could not do his job without her help and when he presents an idea, she takes it to the next level!

Nominated by Rebekah Wilke

Scott leads all the Torts Attorneys in Seattle in our division with compassion, kindness and empathy. He works tirelessly, laboring countless hours, including most weekends and holidays, while defending state agencies—often in multimillion-dollar lawsuits—and taking high-profile cases to jury trials on behalf of the people of our state.

Scott has fostered a collegial and diverse environment in the workplace while mentoring a number of diverse attorneys in the office, including myself. He is the father of special-needs individuals and volunteers within the community.

In addition to handling his regular caseload, Scott offers advice to attorneys from other divisions in our agency who regularly seek out his guidance. He also takes on cases that no one else volunteers for and successfully litigates them on behalf of the State. At the same time, he espouses the highest professional standards as an attorney, as a manager, and as a person.

This past year, Scott also saved my life. I was in the middle of a high-profile jury trial and checked in with him after a tough day in court. Without getting into too many details, my medical issues made for a scary day. Scott convinced me to urgently seek medical care instead of heading into the office, then pressed me to follow through with that care instead of continuing to fight it out in court. 

According to my doctor, had I not gotten treatment, I likely would have had a heart attack in open court in the following days. While I was off work, Scott stepped in and ultimately led my case to a fair and equitable resolution in my absence. I will never forget this.

Nominated by Gauri Shrotriya Locker

In late 2020, Shawn Marceau, Director of the Yakama Nation Veteran Affairs Center, embarked on a visionary collaboration with the Employment Security Department (ESD) and WorkSource Yakima to address significant employment barriers for veterans, particularly focusing on tribal warriors. This initiative showcased innovative methods to serve this historically underserved demographic.

Appointed by WorkSource Yakima, Otto Cruz led the charge as the Tribal Consolidated Veteran Services Representative (TCVSR). Under Shawn’s leadership, Otto not only assisted Yakama Nation’s warriors, but also fostered an inclusive and broader community engagement at the center’s location, resulting in enhanced services for all clientele. In turn, services for tribal members also improved at WorkSource Yakima as they became more aware of how to leverage training and employment resources.

Recognizing the transformative impact, ESD and WorkSource made Otto’s position permanent in 2021, highlighting their commitment to veteran support and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Otto’s exceptional efforts garnered acceptance from Yakama Nation’s tribal leaders, earning him an invitation to join the Tribal Warriors Association.

Shawn, a Marine veteran and Gold Star father, shares a profound bond with Otto, rooted in their military backgrounds. Shawn lost his son in combat and Otto served over a 24-year career in the Army, with multiple combat deployments. Unable to attend the 2023 Washington Workforce Association conference, Shawn exemplified outstanding leadership and dedication by traveling from Toppenish to Tacoma to support Otto during his breakout session, offering valuable insights before immediately traveling back. This demonstration of commitment underscored the depth of their collaboration and was acknowledged at the conference, where TCVSR Otto Cruz was recognized as a finalist for the Workforce Professional of the Year.

For their unwavering dedication, innovative approaches and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, I wholeheartedly nominate Shawn Marceau and Otto Cruz for the Extra Mile Award.

Nominated by Seth Maier

Excellence in Washington State Government Leadership Award

The Leadership Award is given to individuals at all levels of management who show exemplary leadership by demonstrating vision, dedication to public service, a significant contribution to the advancement of state government, personal integrity, and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

2024 Leadership Award recipients

Andrea has shown visionary leadership in many ways over the past year. Following several retirements in her “small but mighty” statewide recreation program, she rebuilt and expanded the team, while ensuring that the employees who remained had the resources they needed to succeed. Her plan to hire an additional four talented professionals onto a team that dwindled to only four was done so thoughtfully and strategically. Seeing opportunities for promotions, much needed reclassifications, and team restructuring, Andrea’s vision resulted in a high-functioning team of enabled leaders.

The projects Andrea and her team have endeavored upon in the last year are nothing short of remarkable. She is the Project Manager for DNR’s first ever Outdoor Access and Responsible Recreation (OARR) Strategic Plan. This planning effort is visionary by definition. With over 20 million visitor days on DNR’s 5.6 million acres, Andrea is realizing the need for the agency’s statewide vision for recreation and access management. This plan’s unique outreach strategy has resulted in meaningful input from trust beneficiaries, sister agencies, statewide partners, community-based organizations, the public and tribes. The agency is committed to codeveloping this plan with tribes, and the process has been applauded by many involved.

Andrea has also been leading the agency’s involvement in the Tribes-State Recreation Impacts Committee, an incredibly complex project aimed at studying and addressing the impacts of recreation on state-managed lands. Being involved in both projects, She has integrated both processes so that the work could be done efficiently and in earnest. 

Andrea has also championed House Bill 2165 on behalf of DNR, a statutory change that the agency has been pursuing for decades. This bill has been remarkably successful in the legislature and is backed by a very diverse set of stakeholders—a testament to their trust in Andrea’s leadership and commitment to equitable access.

Nominated by Brodrick Coval

Casey Hanell is an exceptional leader who serves as Director of the Washington Geological Survey and Washington State Geologist. He leads WGS’s delivery of Geology in the Public Interest that contributes to the safety and well-being of Washington residents. Under Casey’s leadership, WGS educates the public, government and industry about the nature of the land around us, the consequences of geological events such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and the availability of important resources such as aquifers, sand and gravel. WGS is the primary source of geological products and services for government agencies, businesses and the public.

Casey is respected and appreciated for his communicative and considerate approach to leadership. He validates the members of his WGS team as unique individuals and works to help each person grow and bring forth the best they have to offer. One of Casey’s special qualities is his commitment to listening. As one team member put it, “He goes out of his way to ask … [H]e wants to ensure that he has heard other people’s perspectives.” In all aspects of leadership, Casey is determined, thoughtful, and mindful of what decisions and actions mean for all those involved or affected.

Casey’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging was recently illustrated by his months-long immersion in an Elevate Leadership program built for the Department of Natural Resources and led by Dr. Isaiah Pickens of iOpening Enterprises. Casey’s experience included group sessions, homework and one-on-one coaching from Dr. Pickens. Casey shone through this experience, exceeding the curriculum to share and apply his learnings with his WGS team. He is a founding member and continues to serve on the DNR Leadership Team’s DEIB workgroup.

Among DNR’s many accomplished leaders, Casey stands out for his caring, his wisdom, his humility and his dedication to public service.

Nominated by Lenny Young

Cezanne regularly goes above and beyond her job responsibilities to encourage, mentor and provide recognition to employees throughout our division, most notably those employees who are marginalized or underrepresented. She keeps both those employees and also external customers who face hardships in mind when proposing projects, solutions and designs for interfaces with which our internal staff and external customers interact.

Cezanne has a varied background and leverages that when brainstorming and engaging in meetings with individuals inside and outside the division and agency. Her work impacts nearly all Washingtonians with her work on the Paid Leave and WA Cares programs.

Most recently, Cezanne worked on SSB 5586, which expanded data sharing between Paid Leave and employers when it comes to their employees’ benefit data. Cezanne took a thoughtful approach around not only what minimal functionality would be needed to meet the legislative mandate, but also what additional work could be completed as part of the project to improve our customers’ experiences. As part of this project, she took initiative in revamping a toolkit available to employers and was mindful on how future phases of the work related to this law would necessitate minor changes to language. She worked with other product managers, analysts and individuals throughout the division in an effort to be as mindful as possible and learn more about the pain points employees and employers are experiencing when it comes to benefits data and information.

Cezanne approaches things with an equity and growth mindset. She is never hesitant to encourage others to speak and regularly gives credit to other individuals who assisted, provided feedback or came up with ideas. Cezanne brings people alongside her with her passion and dedication to not only our division but our agency, state work and Washingtonians. We love working with her.

Nominated by Nav Singh

Christine Morris has proved to be an exemplary leader. Upon arrival, she spent time listening to her team, learning about their needs and preferences, and shared the excitement of new possibilities. Years later, I still remember those conversations. It was amazing how quickly she learned. I have always appreciated how hard she works, as well. She is an adept delegator but applies herself to any work that benefits from her knowledge, experience and unique vision. She is seemingly indefatigable!

Our office has flourished under her direction, and there is a sense of real comradery across our several teams. It is a pleasure working in such an environment. Our on- and off-boarding have improved immensely, and we have successfully completed a large assortment of Standard Operating Procedures that serve to retain institutional knowledge, guide new hires and improve efficiency. She was an early Certified Diversity Professional and encourages her team not only to learn more about EDIA, but to put those principles into practice.

Christine has contributed significantly to our Workforce Development initiatives and has driven innovations such as the introduction of navigators, GeoLocation data services and a high school program for potential caregivers. Her Training Development team applies the most rigorous accessibility standards and has greatly increased language access to caregiver training. She has helped improve the quality, availability, affordability, consistency and portability of caregiver training with the introduction of the CareLearn Washington Learning Management System. She worked closely with the training oversight and policy team as they navigated the emergency rules put in place during Covid.

I am not just recommending her based solely on her accomplishments. I am also nominating her because she cares deeply and leads well. I would love to see her honored for it.

Nominated by Michael Sheehan

The Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) is a small agency, with 29 staff serving two boards, that carries out complex education policy and program work in an environment of active stakeholders with divergent perspectives. Erica served as interim executive director November 2021–May 2023 and has been the executive director since May 2023, when PESB offered her the job as the result of a nationwide search.

As our leader, Erica has:

Proven her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) by creating an organizational culture that is welcoming and inclusive for diverse staff. Consequently, people of color now make up 48% of PESB staff. Erica also promotes DEI in the agency’s external work. For example, she led PESB’s efforts in relationship building with the Squaxin Island Tribe and tribal liaison position creation.

Provided visionary leadership focused on collaboratively fulfilling PESB’s role in Washington’s educational policy ecosystem. Erica thinks in terms of what PESB can accomplish as part of a system rather than alone. For example, under her leadership PESB served as a Career Connect Washington sector intermediary last year and will work collaboratively this year with Educational Service District 105, Green River College and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on a project for career-connected high school teacher academies. Both of these initiatives are firsts for PESB. Internally, she has shifted PESB’s organizational structure from hierarchy towards collaboration.

Modeled personal integrity by following fiscal rules carefully, actively involving staff in budgeting, and sharing financial information freely with staff. Her approach to agency finances is inclusive, and transparency has been her guiding star.

Led by example, showing her commitment to serving the public by putting the interests of the state’s educators and their students first in her decision-making. She models doing the right thing rather than the easy thing or business as usual.

Nominated by Mark Bergeson

At ESD, one name resonates with unwavering commitment and transformative impact: Jasper Marino. It is my honor to nominate Jasper for the prestigious Leadership Award. Their multifaceted leadership, innovative spirit and genuine care for our team have left an indelible mark.

A Communicator Extraordinaire: Jasper’s leadership begins with communication. They deftly navigate the intricate web of information flow. Interactions with Jasper reveal a compassionate ear, a willingness to listen and a knack for providing context. Jasper shares insights from diverse spaces they inhabit, ensuring transparency and alignment. No question goes unanswered; Jasper’s commitment to clarity is unwavering.

Innovator and Catalyst: Jasper’s ideas are the heartbeat of our office. The quarterly EDI newsletter? Jasper’s brainchild. The EDI office inbox? Their creation. But it doesn’t stop there. Jasper leads conversations on anti-racism, challenging norms, and driving change. Their proactive outreach to agency partners fosters collaboration and shared success. Jasper’s mantra: feedback fuels growth, and inclusivity is our compass.

Coaching and Mentorship: Jasper’s mentorship transcends mere guidance. They invest in our agency, sharing wisdom generously. As co-chair of the PRIDE ERG and RAIN BRG, Jasper champions LGBTQ+ voices. Their journey in EDI work becomes a beacon, illuminating intersectionality and centering anti-racism.

Virtual Leadership, Real Impact: In the virtual realm, Jasper thrives. Teams, platforms and tools—they utilize them all. Our remote team stays engaged, thanks to Jasper’s tireless efforts. They adapt, innovate, and prioritize accessibility. Group preferences matter; adjustments are made. Jasper’s commitment to virtual excellence ensures our agency’s resilience.

In summary, Jasper embodies leadership that transcends titles. Their legacy is etched in every conversation, every initiative and every heart touched. As we honor their contributions, let us celebrate Jasper—the architect of change, the empathetic mentor and the virtual trailblazer. A true leader, deserving of the PSRW Leadership Award.

Nominated by Ayanna Colman

Lea Anne is the Tribal Affairs Manager and a member of the Equity and Environmental Justice Team under the Executive Director’s office of the Puget Sound Partnership (Partnership). Lea Anne’s leadership and guidance is strengthening the agency’s relationships with the tribes in Puget Sound and setting a precedent for how government-to-government consultation is conducted at a state level.

Other agencies look to Lea Anne for guidance and input on Tribal Affairs, environmental justice and other topics. Her collaborative work, active listening, thoughtful input and wonderful sense of humor make her approachable and a great thought partner. She makes herself available and gives her time freely to staff. She develops strategic approaches to collaborative processes that leave people feeling heard and empowered.

Lea Anne eloquently and humbly leads discussions in our agency and beyond to help us think beyond the systems of white supremacy and broaden the horizon for better ways to work with our partners across Puget Sound to achieve ecosystem and salmon recovery. She treats everyone with respect and kindness, meaningfully engaging them at the level of understanding they bring to the conversation. Her approach welcomes people in and builds a coalition of support for Tribal Treaty Rights, environmental justice and equity. She is open-minded and yet firm when it comes to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, which has been instrumental to advancing work both inside our agency and broader state government.

Lea Anne has guided the Partnership’s implementation of the HEAL Act, which included our agency’s first environmental justice assessment, Tribal Consultation and public outreach. She is a trailblazer with consistent leadership that grounds our work. Lea Anne’s work makes us all better and it is an honor to work with her.

Nominated by Melissa Spee

Maggie Leland’s passion for public service includes focus on those whose voices often go unheard. Her policy development leadership to ensure migrant farmworkers have safe housing and overtime pay equity exemplify her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. She guided rulemaking that protects tens of thousands of Washington workers from wildfire smoke and outdoor heat exposure — which will be in effect together for the first time covering the full season this year.

Maggie excels at building trust and confidence in government because stakeholders appreciate her collaborative approach. Maggie is empathic to their problems and understands how to address them with solutions that are fair to everyone. She strives to find balanced rules and processes that protect workers without putting an undue burden on employers. Her premise is that unbalanced rules serve no one and only harm L&I’s reputation.

Maggie approaches her work with a keen focus on the best interest of the public we serve. This has come from a solid ethical foundation. She understands that there are disagreements on politics, tasks or issues, yet consistently approaches all issues with an ethical perspective that maintains credibility and fosters the philosophy that government can bring people together to find solutions that are fair and effective.

Maggie understands the agency’s mission and thinks differently about its work to achieve that vision. Her approach guided the development of crucial logger and firefighter safety initiatives that have reduced injuries and lowered workers’ compensation costs.

Maggie works to get to “yes” in her search for equitable and fair solutions, a philosophy anchored by her priority to the agency’s mission to keep Washington safe and working.

Nominated by Joel Sacks

Marianne is a servant leader with over 30 years of commitment to social justice and DEI. As DOL’s Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO) Administrator, Marianne demonstrates dedication to DEI through consulting, training and communication.

Marianne’s vision is to advance equity and access throughout state government. She inspires staff to identify inclusive, equitable ways to remove barriers for customers. She is a member of several business resource groups and recently accepted the Rainbow Alliance and Inclusion Network’s Outstanding Agency award with the Director.

Outside of DOL, Marianne is a Social Justice and Equity Commissioner on Olympia’s Law Enforcement Oversight subcommittee. She cultivates DEI by providing consultation and training and using a DEI lens on policy development and reform.

Marianne accomplished the following in 2023:

  • Authored the comprehensive annual Equity Performance PEAR report.
  • Led the work to bring CDP/CDE training and certification to DOL.
  • Provided a PEAR session at the Office of Equity’s Annual Summit.
  • Developed the EIO five-year plan of critical deliverables.
  • Initiated cross-divisional teamwork to remove barriers and allowed persons with neurodiversity to successfully take a driver’s knowledge exam in a testing environment that was inclusive for them.

Marianne takes pride in integrity and building trust—internally and externally. Marianne has built a rapport with community partners, enabling them to trust DOL and feel comfortable reaching out with challenges and barriers they are facing. She genuinely cares about her staff and encourages them to show up as their authentic selves.

Marianne holds CDP and CDE certifications and has authored multiple articles modeling DEI. She will be presenting at the 2024 DEI Empowerment Conference. Her topics will include looking at “anti-DEIB” efforts, learning tools for building DEIB momentum, and sharing self- and community-care approaches. Marianne is a Certified Diversity Professional Trainer and is teaching two cohorts of over 40 employees.

Nominated by Lani Fowlkes

Mark started with OFM State HR in October 2022. On his own initiative, Mark joined the OFM DEI council, first as a member, and was quickly elected as co-chair. During his year-long tenure, he helped bring a new vision to the DEI council including obtaining funding for employees to attend The People’s Gathering, designing facilitated spaces for people to debrief after watching The Who We Are video (a mandatory DEI training) and helped to create a safe space which has resulted in 74% of employees feeling a sense of belonging in OFM and 83% believing their coworkers help create that sense of belonging.

Within State HR, Mark has used his vision to help innovate the Governor’s Outstanding Leadership Awards process, removing gender and other identifying language in award nominations to help reduce assessment bias and weaving equity criteria into all parts of the nomination form. He has helped build tools and processes for a more inclusive hybrid workplace and has built an onboarding program to help ensure virtual employees still get a chance to meet and know colleagues across the division.

For the enterprise, Mark is leading work to innovate monthly HR managers’ meetings for more cross-agency collaboration and sharing of best practices. He’s currently working with members of the DEI council to have them share their stories and experiences to improve the overall experience of state employees as outlined in our strategic plan. Mark was also elected as a co-chair for the RAIN BRG.

Every day, Mark demonstrates what servant leadership looks like by actively listening, taking the initiative and being willing to use his leadership role to create impactful change so that all employees across state government have a workplace where they belong and can thrive.

Nominated by Michaela Doelman

Ever wondered how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) shake things up in a tech-heavy state agency like Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech)? Enter Tavares Terry, WaTech's DEI Director since 2022. He's not just in the role, he's helping to rewrite the playbook.

In a world where technology evolves at lightning speed, Tavares Terry is working to ensure these innovations serve all Washingtonians. Tavares doesn't just ponder the future impact on underserved communities, he's actively engaging with those often left in technology’s shadows, ensuring their voices become integral to shaping the IT landscape from the start. Tavares exemplifies leadership ideals.

Proven Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Driven by a desire to foster a more inclusive work environment, Tavares became involved in DEI efforts starting in 2015. He’s certified by the Institute of Diversity Certification and has been instrumental in certifying personnel who have emerged as DEI leaders at other agencies.

Visionary Leadership: Tavares integrated DEI principles into WaTech by recognizing the pervasive impact of technology in society and applying a DEI lens to IT decisions and policies. For example, he developed the “Learning about ourselves” DEI series and led statewide roundtables for agencies.

Commitment to Service: Tavares has fostered a more inclusive and understanding workplace by raising awareness. His efforts to collaborate with other agencies and underrepresented communities highlight a commitment to equity across the state.

Significant Contribution to the Advancement of State Government: By advocating for broadband accessibility and digital equity, Tavares has played a crucial role in ensuring state services are accessible and equitable. For example, he’s played a leadership role in applying DEI principles to recruiting, decision packages, legislation, IT projects and programs.

Personal Integrity: Tavares has exemplified personal integrity, approaching complex and emotional DEI topics with empathy and a genuine desire to foster connection and mutual respect.

Nominated by Vickie Sheehan

Last updated
Thursday, May 2, 2024
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