Governor recognizes outstanding state leaders in awards ceremony

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A Governor's Outstanding Leadership Awards trophy was presented to Joe Norwood from DES.

Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday recognized 22 state agency leaders this week at an annual awards ceremony. The Governor's Outstanding Leadership Awards celebrated accomplishments achieved during the 2022 calendar year.

The program was created in 1985 to honor state government leaders who exemplify leadership. Inslee expanded criteria to highlight continuous improvement, as well as pro-equity and anti-racism efforts.

“Recent years brought new challenges to our agencies, and they’ve been met with ambition, innovation, and a commitment to public service from leaders at all levels of each agency.” Inslee said, “I could not be prouder of how state employees have led by example.”

Honorees represented many state agencies, offices, and commissions.

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

The governor poses for a photo with 2023 Outstanding Leadership Awards winners

This year’s honorees include:

Albert Rogers, Department of Licensing, Central Document Services Manager

Rogers was instrumental in DOL's records modernization efforts, enhancing the hybrid work environment, reducing paper record dependency, and improving efficiency through digitization. His dedication to data-informed decision-making and continuous improvement enabled staff to collaborate, experiment and solve problems, and his leadership in HR file scanning has significantly improved efficiency and timely responses for the HR division.

Brian Thomas, Office of Administrative Hearings, Chief Information Officer

Under Thomas' guidance, the Office of Administrative Hearings underwent an extreme technology makeover, fostering a high-performing IT team and delivering remarkable service improvements. His work ensured OAH was able to support a mobile workforce of 260 facing a tsunami of appeals from ESD - a whopping 178,000 appeals in two years.

Carla McKnight, Department of Social and Health Services, Budget Administrator

McKnight is a forward thinker dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. She cares for and develops those around her and excels at financial modeling, which helps DSHS programs respond nimbly to changes in funding. She is responsible for budget and Medicaid forecasts totaling $10.4B, 75% of DSHS’ total budget.

Celeste Monahan – Department of Labor and Industries, Assistant Director, Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards

Monahan stood up for a new L&I unit to ensure gig-drivers for companies such as Lyft and Uber received rights under the new state law and had the ability to file complaints. She creates space for collaboration and has implemented game-changing succession planning with regards to agency leadership team recruitments.

Charleen Anderson – Department of Social and Health Services, Field Operations Quality & Performance Administrator

Anderson lives and breathes equity, diversity, inclusion. She co-hosted EDI-focused podcasts, co-facilitated Champion of Change, incorporated staff feedback through the organizational change process, and with only a few weeks' notice, stepped up to help the Office of the Governor plan the first annual State Equity Summit.

Daniel Cooke – Department of Licensing, Administrator of Licensing, Endorsements, and Traffic Safety

Cooke's leadership led to articulating agency goals with clarity and passion, while leading with empathy, respect and delivering results. As administrator of Licenses, Endorsements and Traffic Safety, Cooke created the annual week-long event, “Compliance Stand-down” for auditors, investigators, compliance managers and support staff to build unity, advance agency goals and values in DEI and customer service.

Danielle Cruver – Employment Security Department, Chief Financial Officer

Serving as the CFO of ESD, Cruver demonstrated exceptional financial leadership and a commitment to transparency, innovation, and employee engagement. She transformed ESD finances by scrutinizing and updating job classes and processes, as well as redesigning the financial picture painted at ESD. She implemented and leveraged new technology and built a culture of inclusion, access, and participation.

Debbie Robinson – Washington’s Lottery, Director of Human Resources and Support Services

As a civil servant leader for 30 years, Robinson inspired leadership and unification. She was purpose-driven and showed astounding resilience during COVID-19. Debbie also advocated for diversity & inclusion, through open dialogue.

Deborah "Jo" Wofford – Department of Corrections, Deputy Assistant Secretary – Women’s Prison Division

Wofford has excelled in Washington's Department of Corrections, rising to Deputy Assistant Secretary in the newly-established Women's Prison Division. She is widely recognized for her supportive leadership, mentorship, and commitment to fairness and equity.

DoQuyen Huynh – Health Care Authority, Health Equity Director

Huynh demonstrated exceptional leadership in advancing health equity and implementing PEAR initiatives. Huynh fosters a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, while working collaboratively to make health equity actionable and sustainable; all of which is in alignment with the Gov. Inslee’s commitment to building a pro-equity, anti-racist government in Washington.

Jennifer Malloy – Department of Social and Health Services , ORIA Administrator

Malloy has managed diverse programs and contracts serving refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers. She consistently provides support under challenging circumstances, exemplifying values of social justice, antiracism, inclusion, and equity. Jennifer demonstrates a remarkable ability to navigate complex situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic, with compassion and resourcefulness while fostering a positive and supportive work environment.

Jessica Nau – Department of Labor and Industries, Retrospective Rating Program Manager

Nau revitalized L&I's Retrospective Rating Program, building strong relationships with stakeholders, and fostering open communication, trust, and collaboration, leading to significant improvements, program efficiency and responsiveness, as well as a more harmonious partnership with the business community.

Joe Norwood – Department of Enterprise Services, Customer Service Specialist

Norwood supports Washington businesses, particularly small, diverse, and veteran-owned enterprises, by connecting them to state contracting opportunities. He proactively engages with business owners, driving innovation and economic growth, all while demonstrating expert-level knowledge and providing immense value to the state and its partners.

Kathi Scanlan – Utilities and Transportation Commission, Assistant Director of Energy Conservation and Planning

Scanlan displayed unwavering leadership in guiding her team and division through significant transitional changes in the energy sector, including the Clean Energy Transformation Act. She provided stability and support during the COVID-19 pandemic, where she demonstrated exceptional empathy, communication, and advocacy for her team. Kathi’s instrumental efforts in addressing labor challenges and ensuring the work's success in this critical field made her a quiet hero in her section and division.

Kathryn Ruckle – Washington Technology Solutions, State Chief Privacy Officer

Kathryn's remarkable leadership as the Washington State Chief Privacy Officer is exemplified in her visionary thinking and innovative techniques in enhancing privacy protection. This includes launching groundbreaking privacy training for state employees, implementing Privacy Impact Assessments, and creating a Privacy Community of Practice. Kathryn’s accomplishments and expertise have made her a national leader and sought-after expert in the field of privacy.

Kevin Dixon – Department of Revenue, Assistant Director, Working Families Tax Credit Division

Dixon's leadership was exemplified by his swift and successful implementation of the Working Families Tax Credit program. He leveraged extensive experience as the WFTC's assistant director to navigate complex tax credit regulations, software, and stakeholder interactions while exceeding participation goals; all to support the financial stability, racial equity, and well-being of low-to-moderate income Washington residents.

Matt LaPalm – Employment Security Department, Product Manager

LaPalm led a critical project aimed at providing relief from pandemic-era unemployment benefit overpayments. He successfully oversaw the automatic waiving of overpayments for thousands of individuals, while also developing a user-friendly application process for those not covered by the automatic waiver. All of this was accomplished while fostering a shared strategic vision, motivating his team, and demonstrating determination and exceptional problem-solving skills to make a positive impact on the lives of Washingtonians in need.

Monica Ghosh – Department of Transportation, Transportation Manager

Ghosh displays an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, demonstrated through decades of groundbreaking work addressing gender bias, advocating for equitable transportation services and sustainable commutes, and serving on racial equity and inclusion committees. She continues to lead efforts at WSDOT, prioritizing historically disregarded populations, fostering individual growth, and working to identify and correct policies that disproportionately impact marginalized groups; all while uplifting colleagues and community members to create positive change.

Nathan Peppin – Department of Commerce, Director of Homelessness on State Property

Peppin is a statewide expert on housing and homelessness, spearheading a groundbreaking initiative to address homelessness in encampments on state right-of-ways. Despite facing aggressive timelines, he successfully negotiated with multiple state agencies, local government, and nonprofit service providers, facilitating collaboration and ensuring clear communication to overcome challenges and provide unprecedented solutions to this pressing issue.

Nona Snell – Office of Financial Management, Director of Budget

Snell oversees the development of Washington's extensive budgets, working closely with the Office of the Governor, OFM leadership and state agencies to set budget and policy priorities that have a lasting impact on all current and future Washingtonians. As a trusted advisor and highly credible problem solver, she tackles complex issues, leads a dedicated team, and actively promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Steve Nevey – Department of Transportation, Director of Marine Operations

Nevey has made a name for himself with his proactive approach to addressing service constraints and crewing challenges. He created innovative programs, such as the "AB to Mate" program and pilotage training, to enable unlicensed deck employees to attain licensure, ensuring the agency's ability to meet its future needs for licensed deck officers. Steve’s creative thinking, initiative, and commitment to listening and responding to his team's needs have made him a natural leader and an asset to WSF.

Tedd Kelleher – Department of Commerce, Housing Policy Director

Kelleher has been representing Commerce in strategic discussions with the Office of the Governor to address the homelessness crisis in the state. His ability to instill trust, provide reliable guidance, and simplify complex information is invaluable. He successfully led through an organizational change, created a new policy unit within the Housing Division, and managed a unique and impactful initiative, the Right of Way Safety Initiative.