Inslee honors state employee efforts during annual leadership ceremony

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Gov. Jay Inslee recognized 23 state agency leaders today with an annual celebration for outstanding leadership, inclusive excellence and achievement during the 2021 calendar year.

The Governor’s Outstanding Leadership Award program was created in 1985 to honor state government leaders who demonstrate excellent performance and leadership.

“Thanks to our dedicated public employees, Washington is among the few states that consistently ranks as one of the best states to live and work,” Inslee said, “Because of their expertise and experience, we’re bolder, better, and more agile during change and challenge. As we slowly exit the past two tumultuous years of the pandemic, we can say we came together to improve our processes, inspire each other through action, and ignite lasting change.”

The leadership accomplishments of this year’s awardees were as diverse as the business of state government. Accomplishments ranged from leading the rollout of one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, enacting a long-term plan to support the successful operations of a Medicaid Nursing Facility program, and making sure the right stakeholders had a voice in implementing a new medical alert designation on driver’s licenses.

Each year, a group of agency executives review and determine the awardees from a pool of nominations.

This year’s recipients are:

Adrianne "Aji" Lemcke, Employment Security Department

Adrianne has a focused commitment to understand the unique needs of historically marginalized populations and to create multiple learning platforms. She has created programs that promote an altruistic culture of authenticity and togetherness.

Alejandro Sanchez, Department of Licensing

In his short time at DOL, Alé has developed and empowered the agency’s deputy assistant directors to holistically make decisions that advance the agency’s strategic goals. He has also been instrumental in helping the agency emerge from COVID-19.

Celia Nightingale, Department of Labor, and Industries

Celia Nightingale is a proven state government leader with a 10-year record of accomplishments that advocate for policies, information and tailored assistance to Washington’s 235,000 small employers.

Craig Blackwood, Department of Labor, and Industries

Craig showed extraordinary leadership by stepping up to lead L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), amid some of the most challenging days of a pandemic.

Dave Andersen, Department of Commerce

Dave’s efforts helped bring critical community stakeholders together to include builders, realtors, environmental groups and housing advocates that led to the Legislature funding grants.

Ellis Starrett, Department of Licensing

Ellis led a robust stakeholder engagement process to implement Senate Bill (SB) 6429, which created a medical alert designation on driver’s licenses.

Heidi Geathers, Department of Revenue

For the past two years, Heidi expertly directed the agency’s COVID-19 response and throughout the pandemic, Heidi’s commitment to Revenue’s employees and vital business functions remained steadfast.

Isaac Kwakye, Student Achievement Council

Under Isaac’s management, the division expanded an innovative approach to develop and share relevant research with stakeholders in the state and beyond.

Janel Roper, State Auditor’s Office

When the personal information of Washingtonians was put at risk in a data breach, the State Auditor Office’s director of Administrative Services Janel Roper led the response.

Joel Creswell, Department of Ecology

When the Clean Fuel Standard passed, Joel immediately worked on implementing both bills by hiring highly capable people, and planning and managing the work to be done.

John Gancel, Department of Transportation

John cultivated the Mentorship program for his team and developed the agency’s Industrial Hygiene program.

Julie Cope, Department of Social and Health Services

Julie Cope administers statewide rebalancing, policy and long-range strategic expertise of the Medicaid Nursing Facility program with a biennial budget impact of over $1.3 billion.

Katherine Rains, Department of Agriculture

Katie coordinated efforts among the Governor’s Office, Food Lifeline, 2nd Harvest, Northwest Harvest and the Washington State Department of Agriculture to successfully purchase and deliver food to those in need.

Keith Bingham, Department of Labor & Industries

Keith showed exceptional leadership this year by successfully steering his staff through some of the most critical initiatives that form the core of L&I’s essential role: assuring a healthy and viable workers’ compensation system.

Matt Stevens, Washington Technology Solutions

Due to his in-depth knowledge and experience, Matt has been the state’s go-to person when cybersecurity incidents occur to help diagnose threats and find solutions to keep the state safe.

Megan Jackson, Department of Licensing

Megan acts as the vice chair of the Washington Records and Information Managers, an interagency forum of public records officers that set standards and best practices for records management.

Phillip White, Employment Security Department

Phil led the Administrative Services Division, ensuring that all 47 facilities met stringent health and safety criteria to keep staff and customers safe from exposure and illness.

Shana Barehand, Department of Enterprise Services

Shana’s primary goal is to remove barriers for Washington small, minority, women- and veteran-owned businesses and she has worked tirelessly to achieve that goal.

SheAnne Allen, Department of Health

SheAnne’s work led to over 14 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine being given to over 75% of Washingtonians, one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation.

Tavares Terry, Department of Social and Health Services

Tavares continues to participate in developing a plan that will ultimately help all DSHS administrations recruit, hire and retain am inclusive workforce that represents Washington’s diverse demographics, and that serves as an example for the employers of this city and state.

Tisa Soeteber, Department of Labor, and Industries

Tisa makes it easier for our customers to do business with L&I one of our five key organizational goals – by coordinating and aligning with many programs throughout the agency.

Tonia Buell, Department of Transportation

Tonia’s leadership helped us expanding EV charging infrastructure to support this growth in vehicles, and the state exceeded that goal – with more than 100,000 EVs on state roads today.

Trent Howard, Department of Labor & Industries

In 2021, Trent was the main architect behind the Department of Labor & Industries’ innovative Budget for Results initiative – a rigorous, strategic, agencywide plan to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability and reliability.

Will Saunders, Department of Licensing

Will established new data governance and disclosure policies and procedures and identified, tracked, and closed 13 data incidents in 2021, with only two reportable incidents by DOL data recipients.

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