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The Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards honor employees and workgroups at King County for their exceptional contributions in performance, leadership, and innovation. “The depth and breadth of this year’s nominations is a testament to the innovative work being done across our organization and the commitment our employees bring to our customers each and every day,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. Due to the pandemic, the Executive and other leaders at King County congratulated the 2021 award recipients by video.

Meet the 2021 award recipients

Leadership Excellence Awards

The Leadership Excellence Awards honor King County leaders who embody our Executive Branch values and drive for results that make King County better for employees and customers, and move us closer to our True North: Making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.

Fred Jarrett Award: Honors a department or division leader

Recipient: Jennifer Hills, Director of the Office of Risk Management, Department of Executive Services

Under Jennifer’s guidance, King County has adopted a more progressive view of risk. Where it once avoided risk, the county now uses a more balanced approach and takes risks when it can add value, drive change, and deliver results. Watch the video to learn how Jennifer led the Office of Risk Management to modernize its tort claims handling process to be more transparent, electronic, and timely – and how she forges partnerships with other agencies, factors equity into decision-making, and prioritizes employee engagement and belonging.

People Leader Award: Honors a leader below the department or division leadership level who directly manages staff

Recipient: Hedda McClendon, COVID Emergency Services Director, Department of Community and Human Services

In an incredibly challenging year, Hedda led operations at two high-volume COVID-19 vaccine sites, King County’s Isolation and Quarantine System Sites, and the White Center Cooling Center, and oversaw the Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program. Watch the video to learn how she inspired multi-departmental teams to produce big results with her leadership, partnership, and information-sharing – and supported and cultivated new leaders, including rising leaders of color, in the process.

Individual Contributor Award: Honors an individual contributor who does not directly manage staff

Recipient: Carolina Johnson, Data Asset and Technical Manager, Department of Community and Human Services

Carolina is the product owner for the Community and Human Services and Public Health Integrated Data Hub, and she created first-in-county structures and processes to allow for transparent and responsible data use and interpretation. Watch the video to learn how she moved her project team to quickly generate data analysis that shaped the county’s COVID-19 homelessness response and limited the spread of the virus – and how she continues to create collaborative data products and support her colleagues in improving their data processes.

Innovation Awards

These awards honor department teams whose projects, improvements, and ingenuity deliver exceptional, measurable results. “We solve problems” and “We drive for results” are core values at King County, and these award recipients met challenges in creative and forward-thinking ways.

Innovation Award for Cost

Recipient: Department of Executive Services/Business and Finance Operations/Procurement and Payables Section – Strategic Sourcing Program

Project Team: Dominic Palo, Alex Clark, Nick Baltes, David Malone

Residents rely on King County government to be a responsible steward of resources. To ensure the county is getting the best value for its dollar, the Procurement and Payables Section launched the Strategic Sourcing Program. Watch the video to learn how the program uses data, market research, and benchmarking to make wise purchasing decisions – and to support businesses that align with the county’s sustainability and equity and social justice goals.

Innovation Award for Service

Recipient: Department of Community and Human Services/Developmental Disabilities and Early Childhood Supports Division – Refugee Resettlement Hotel

Project Teams: Click here to see team members

Hundreds of Afghan refugees evacuated to King County when U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan and needed temporary housing while they resettled. Watch the video to learn how the Developmental Disabilities and Early Childhood Supports Division collaborated with multiple King County departments and community partners to quickly turn a county-owned hotel into safe, welcoming, and culturally respectful housing for our Afghan refugee neighbors.

Innovation Award for People

Recipient: Department of Executive Services/Fleet Services – Apprenticeship Program

Project Team: Heavy Duty Technicians: Roger Brady, Paul Brown, Dick Hughes, Dana Stacks, Jeff Van Derveer; Apprentices: Michael Domiquel, Mason Keselburg, Christina “Tina” Taylor; Union: Tommy Hunt, Shana Peschek; Washington State Department of Labor & Industries: Sandra Husband; Fleet Leadership: Jennifer Lindwall, Chris Gavigan, Cindy Kittleson-Walker, Lynn Walters, Isaac Wisdom

Fleet Services was having trouble finding candidates with sufficient skills for heavy-duty technician positions, leading to staff shortages and delays in maintaining King County roads. Watch the video to learn how the division created an apprenticeship program that allowed the county to grow a skilled workforce from within, and gave apprentices the opportunity to become career-service employees upon completion of the program.

Innovation Award for Equity and Social Justice

Recipient: Department of Public Health/Environmental Health Services Division – Box Fan Filter Distribution Project

Project Team: Environmental Health Services Division: Shirlee Tan, Khanh Ho, Addison Houston, Rachele Hurt, Sinang Lee, Roda Mohamed, Fanaye Amsalu, Ayantu Hajikadir, Julie West, and Brad Kramer; Partners: Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Washington State Department of Health, and University of Washington

Wildfire smoke and COVID-19 pose a significant health risk for some people who may not be able to afford an air filtration unit in their home or business. Watch the video to learn how the Environmental Health Services Division of Public Health joined with community partners to distribute low-cost kits of box fans and furnace filters to vulnerable and low-income residents. These kits proved highly effective in reducing indoor air pollution.

Innovation Award for Sustainability

Recipient: Department of Natural Resources and Parks/Water and Land Resources Division – Lones Levee Setback and Floodplain Restoration Project

Project Team: Dan Eastman, Chris Ewing, Todd Hurley, Mason Bowles, Mike Thai, Jon Hansen, Josh Kahan, Suzanna Smith, Will Mansfield, Nathan Brown, Cynthia Saleh, Sophie Brooks, Cody Toal, Ashley Gould, Paul Adler, Amanda Hubbard, Jessica Alvarado, Andrea Plischke, JoAnn Dulan, Tammy Merritt, Ted Sullivan, Joan Lee, Jon Hansen

The 1,600-foot-long Lones Levee on the Green River had fallen into disrepair and was no longer providing adequate protection from flooding and erosion. Watch the video to learn how the Water and Land Resources Division worked with landowners and tribes to build a new, stronger levee that restored functional floodplains, supports forests and greenspace, and improved salmon and native fish habitat.

Past recipients

The Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards honor employees and workgroups at King County for their exceptional contributions to performance, leadership, and innovation. “As we build a best-run government at King County, these awards recognize individuals and teams who have gone above and beyond to look at how they can do things differently to better serve our customers and employees,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. Due to the pandemic, the Executive and other leaders at King County congratulated the 2020 honorees by video.

Meet the 2020 honorees

Leadership Excellence Awards

The Leadership Excellence Awards honor King County leaders who embody our Executive Branch values and who strive to reach our True North: Making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.

Fred Jarrett Award: Honors a department or division leader

Honoree: John Diaz, Director, Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention

In a little over two years at King County, John has shown he is open to new ideas, and ready to take on tough challenges and transformative work. When the pandemic broke out, he quickly implemented changes to limit the spread of the virus among his staff and those entrusted to their care – and helped keep COVID rates in detention facilities among the lowest in the nation. Watch the video to learn how John is working to transform corrections work at King County by improving processes, building a workplace culture based on mutual respect, leading with racial justice, and promoting transparency and accountability.

People Leader Award: Honors a leader below the department or division leadership level who directly manages staff

Honoree: Matt Canady, Transit Chief, Metro/Transit Facilities

Matt leads Metro/Transit’s Custodial Services team for Central Facilities, and his staff has worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep transit facilities clean and safe for employees. Matt worked with his team to develop a schedule that increased custodial presence without increasing cost. Watch the video to learn how Matt stays connected to his team, engages them in decisions that affect them, and collaborates with them to solve problems.

Individual Contributor Award: Honors an individual contributor who does not directly manage staff

Honoree: Cecelia Hayes, Equity, Social Justice and Engagement, Senior Practitioner, Department of Executive Services

Cecelia is committed to moving King County forward in its racially just, pro-equity work. In response to the murder of George Floyd, she spearheaded a series of employee town halls that focused on “Race, Racism, and Change,” and she developed a tool to measure organizational progress in adopting behaviors that promote equity and social justice. Watch the video to learn how Cecelia is helping cultivate a workforce that can speak openly about race and confront racist situations when they occur.

Innovation Awards

These awards honor department teams whose projects, improvements, and ingenuity deliver exceptional, measurable results. “We solve problems” and “We drive for results” are core values at King County, and these honorees met challenges in creative and forward-thinking ways.

Innovation Award for Cost

Honoree: Department of Executive Services/Office of Risk Management – Lower Duwamish Settlement

Project Team: Jennifer Hills, Department of Executive Services; Kevin Wright, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

King County was named potentially responsible for clean-up of the Lower Duwamish Waterway. Insurance companies that provided environmental coverage for the county refused the county’s claims. Watch the video to learn how the Office of Risk Management and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office worked with an insurance archeologist, forensic accountant, and computer probability models to negotiate millions of dollars in insurance settlements at an enormous cost-savings to taxpayers.

Innovation Award for Service

Honoree: Departments of Public Health - Seattle and King County, Community and Human Services, Metro Transit, and Executive Services – Isolation and Quarantine, Shelter De-intensification, and Transportation for Pandemic Response

Special Recognition: Department of Executive Services/Facilities Management Division and Office of Emergency Management

Project Teams: Click here to see team members

Multiple teams in many departments at King County joined forces with government and community partners to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the region’s most vulnerable populations, many of whom are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Watch the video to learn how their combined efforts helped King County achieve one of the lowest rates of death from COVID among the country’s most populous counties.

Innovation Award for People

Honoree: Department of Human Resources/Career and Culture – Workplace Mental Health

Project Team: Brooke Bascom, Heather Steffensen, Janna Wilson, Jena Scott, Karla Clark, Mary Norman, Megan Jourdan, Michele Ritala, and Shawna Johnson

In 2020, the twin public health crises of COVID-19 and racism presented challenges for both the physical and mental health of King County employees. Watch the video to learn how the Department of Human Resources developed a multi-pronged, culturally responsive approach to meet the mental health needs of a large and diverse workforce.

Innovation Award for Equity and Social Justice

Honoree: Department of Public Health - Seattle & King County – Community Mitigation and Recovery Team

Project Team: Click here to see team members.

The pandemic disproportionately affected communities that have been historically underserved. To mitigate the elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure and socio-economic fallout, Public Health - Seattle and King County created a team to support vulnerable populations. Watch the video to learn how the team joined with community partners to implement COVID-19 strategies and advance anti-racist policy and system changes.

Innovation Award for Sustainability

Honoree: Department of Natural Resources and Parks/Wastewater Treatment Division – South Wastewater Treatment Plant Biogas System Optimization

Project Team: Instrumentation & Electrical, Mechanical, Day Operations, Shift Operations, Process, Engineering, Construction Management, Safety, Facilities Inspection & Project Management

Biogas is a waste byproduct of wastewater treatment. The South Wastewater Treatment Plant has been converting biogas to renewable natural gas for decades through a process called scrubbing. Watch the video to learn how South Plant and associated staff found cost-effective ways to repair an aging scrubbing system to increase gas production and revenues until a replacement system may be needed.

Past honorees

The Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards honor employees and teams at King County for their exceptional contributions to performance, leadership, service, and innovation. “These awards recognize people who are helping build a best-run government at King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. Due to COVID-19, the Executive and other leaders at King County congratulated the 2019 honorees by video.

Meet the 2019 honorees

Leadership Excellence Awards

The Leadership Excellence Awards honor King County leaders who embody our Executive Branch values and who strive to reach our True North: Making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.

Fred Jarrett Award: Honors a department or division leader

Honoree: Caroline Whalen, Director, Department of Executive Services

A great leader is one who demands excellence from their staff while giving them the tools and opportunities to succeed. Caroline Whalen challenges her managers and teams to reach stretch goals, and encourages them by recognizing their successes. Watch the video to learn how Caroline is helping build a workplace culture that inspires teams to continuously improve and deliver even better solutions for the people of King County.

People Leader Award: Honors a leader below the department or division leadership level who directly manages staff

Honoree: Alex Ebrahimi, Coordinated for All (CEA) Housing Referrals Supervisor, Department of Community and Human Services

Alex supports his team’s professional development; listens to the voices of people who have lived experiences with homelessness when making decisions in the homelessness system; recognizes that racial disparity can occur when determining who is prioritized for housing; and helps his white colleagues be better allies to people of color. Watch the video to learn how Alex inspires and mentors his teams in the crucial work they do for vulnerable people in our community.

Individual Contributor Award: Honors an individual contributor who does not directly manage staff

Honoree: Michelle Sarju, Project/Program Manager, Public Health

Not all leaders lead teams. Some lead by example in the way they go about their work and interact with colleagues and customers. Michelle Sarju has called out instances of racial oppression in our work; looks for opportunities to partner with community organizations that understand the experiences of people of color; and coaches others on how they can identify and fight institutional racism. Watch the video to learn how Michelle is helping lead the way to a non-racist workplace and society.

Innovation Awards

The Innovation Awards honor department teams whose projects, improvements, and ingenuity deliver exceptional, measurable results. “We solve problems” is a core value at King County, and these honorees met challenges in key areas in creative and forward-thinking ways

Innovation Award for People

Honoree: Department of Community and Human Services – Recruitment and Hiring Initiative

Project Team: Elizabeth Causby-Miles, Susan Churchill, Annette Coleman, Bridget Tibbs, Khanh Hang, and Elena Romani

The Department of Community and Human Services had a workforce of about 400 employees. Due to expanded responsibilities, the department had to recruit, hire, and train more than 100 new or promoted employees in just a matter of months. Watch the video to learn how they found the right people for the roles and ensured a diverse workforce that reflects the populations the County serves.

Innovation Award for Cost

Honoree: Department of Executive Services/Facilities Management Division – Franchise Project

Project Team: Terri Hansen, David Hackett, Anthony Wright, and Cristina Gonzalez

King County requires compensation from utilities to use the rights-of-way of County roads for construction and maintenance. This is done by issuing franchises to the utilities. Many utilities were using County rights-of-way without a franchise. Watch the video to learn how the Facilities Management Division reinvigorated the franchise-negotiation process to increase revenues and reduce risk for the County.

Innovation Award for Service

Honoree: Department of Human Resources – Automation of Verification of Employment

Project Team: Tracey Dang, Ampalavanar Mohanakumar, Grey Lewis, Pam Bell, Heather Cory, and Michael Strutynski

King County employees often need to verify their employment or income in a timely manner to get a home or apartment, a loan, a job, or social service benefits. The Department of Human Resources handled several thousand verification-of-employment requests each year, and it took anywhere from one hour to five days to fulfill a request and often exposed sensitive employee information to others. Watch the video to learn how Human Resources streamlined and secured the process.

Innovation Award for Equity and Social Justice

Honoree: Metro Transit – Mobility Framework

Project Team: Tessa McClellan, De’Sean Quinn, Mary Bourguignon, Tristan Cook, Brian Van Abbema, Gary Prince, and Carrie Lee

Mobility plays a vital role in the health, well-being, and prosperity of all King County residents, but not everyone has access to the same opportunities. Disparities in mobility are often defined by race and place, and they can have a profound impact on someone’s housing, employment, or economic development. Watch the video to learn how Metro Transit is taking a pro-equity approach to mobility.

Innovation Award for Sustainability

Honoree: Metro Transit/Mobility Division – Via to Transit

Project Team: Daniel Rowe, David Eldred, Jenifer Merkel, Ashley Dunn, Shelby Cramer, Torie Rynning, Pierce Canser, Jeremy Waldner, Brian Van Abbema, and Casey (Catherine) Gifford

There are many people who would like to use public transit, but they find it difficult to get to a transit stop or station. Challenges are greatest in neighborhoods with a high percentage of low-income people, people of color, and people with limited English proficiency and limited mobility options. Watch the video to learn how Metro Transit applied a contemporary solution to a long-standing problem.

The Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards honor employees and teams at King County for their exceptional contributions to performance, leadership, service, and innovation. “These awards recognize people who are helping build a best-run government at King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. Due to COVID-19, the Executive and other leaders at King County congratulated the 2019 honorees by video.

Meet the 2019 honorees

Leadership Excellence Awards

The Leadership Excellence Awards honor King County leaders who embody our Executive Branch values and who strive to reach our True North: Making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.

Fred Jarrett Award: Honors a department or division leader

Honoree: Caroline Whalen, Director, Department of Executive Services

A great leader is one who demands excellence from their staff while giving them the tools and opportunities to succeed. Caroline Whalen challenges her managers and teams to reach stretch goals, and encourages them by recognizing their successes. Watch the video to learn how Caroline is helping build a workplace culture that inspires teams to continuously improve and deliver even better solutions for the people of King County.

People Leader Award: Honors a leader below the department or division leadership level who directly manages staff

Honoree: Alex Ebrahimi, Coordinated for All (CEA) Housing Referrals Supervisor, Department of Community and Human Services

Alex supports his team’s professional development; listens to the voices of people who have lived experiences with homelessness when making decisions in the homelessness system; recognizes that racial disparity can occur when determining who is prioritized for housing; and helps his white colleagues be better allies to people of color. Watch the video to learn how Alex inspires and mentors his teams in the crucial work they do for vulnerable people in our community.

Individual Contributor Award: Honors an individual contributor who does not directly manage staff

Honoree: Michelle Sarju, Project/Program Manager, Public Health

Not all leaders lead teams. Some lead by example in the way they go about their work and interact with colleagues and customers. Michelle Sarju has called out instances of racial oppression in our work; looks for opportunities to partner with community organizations that understand the experiences of people of color; and coaches others on how they can identify and fight institutional racism. Watch the video to learn how Michelle is helping lead the way to a non-racist workplace and society.

Innovation Awards

The Innovation Awards honor department teams whose projects, improvements, and ingenuity deliver exceptional, measurable results. “We solve problems” is a core value at King County, and these honorees met challenges in key areas in creative and forward-thinking ways

Innovation Award for People

Honoree: Department of Community and Human Services – Recruitment and Hiring Initiative

Project Team: Elizabeth Causby-Miles, Susan Churchill, Annette Coleman, Bridget Tibbs, Khanh Hang, and Elena Romani

The Department of Community and Human Services had a workforce of about 400 employees. Due to expanded responsibilities, the department had to recruit, hire, and train more than 100 new or promoted employees in just a matter of months. Watch the video to learn how they found the right people for the roles and ensured a diverse workforce that reflects the populations the County serves.

Innovation Award for Cost

Honoree: Department of Executive Services/Facilities Management Division – Franchise Project

Project Team: Terri Hansen, David Hackett, Anthony Wright, and Cristina Gonzalez

King County requires compensation from utilities to use the rights-of-way of County roads for construction and maintenance. This is done by issuing franchises to the utilities. Many utilities were using County rights-of-way without a franchise. Watch the video to learn how the Facilities Management Division reinvigorated the franchise-negotiation process to increase revenues and reduce risk for the County.

Innovation Award for Service

Honoree: Department of Human Resources – Automation of Verification of Employment

Project Team: Tracey Dang, Ampalavanar Mohanakumar, Grey Lewis, Pam Bell, Heather Cory, and Michael Strutynski

King County employees often need to verify their employment or income in a timely manner to get a home or apartment, a loan, a job, or social service benefits. The Department of Human Resources handled several thousand verification-of-employment requests each year, and it took anywhere from one hour to five days to fulfill a request and often exposed sensitive employee information to others. Watch the video to learn how Human Resources streamlined and secured the process.

Innovation Award for Equity and Social Justice

Honoree: Metro Transit – Mobility Framework

Project Team: Tessa McClellan, De’Sean Quinn, Mary Bourguignon, Tristan Cook, Brian Van Abbema, Gary Prince, and Carrie Lee

Mobility plays a vital role in the health, well-being, and prosperity of all King County residents, but not everyone has access to the same opportunities. Disparities in mobility are often defined by race and place, and they can have a profound impact on someone’s housing, employment, or economic development. Watch the video to learn how Metro Transit is taking a pro-equity approach to mobility.

Innovation Award for Sustainability

Honoree: Metro Transit/Mobility Division – Via to Transit

Project Team: Daniel Rowe, David Eldred, Jenifer Merkel, Ashley Dunn, Shelby Cramer, Torie Rynning, Pierce Canser, Jeremy Waldner, Brian Van Abbema, and Casey (Catherine) Gifford

There are many people who would like to use public transit, but they find it difficult to get to a transit stop or station. Challenges are greatest in neighborhoods with a high percentage of low-income people, people of color, and people with limited English proficiency and limited mobility options. Watch the video to learn how Metro Transit applied a contemporary solution to a long-standing problem.

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Recognizing Performance Excellence at King County

The King County Performance Excellence Awards celebrate the best in employee innovation and service excellence.

Winners of the inaugural awards, which recognize the projects, improvements and innovations that drive exceptional, measurable results, include:

Cost

The Fleet Division’s field service mechanics saved 124 hours in travel time in the first six months of 2018 by adding diagnostic software to field service computers.

Service

Metro Transit decreased missed trips due to “no operator” by nearly 70% compared with the previous year.

People

Public Health’s part-time employment pilot program in the Community Health Services division increased attendance in 83 percent of employees, with an overall 60 percent reduction in use of sick leave or unpaid leave.

Equity and Social Justice

Best Starts for Kids, a collaboration between DCHS and Public Health, reduced barriers to funding for community-based service providers, enhancing equity in service delivery.

Sustainability

In 2018, the Department of Natural Resources and Parks’ North Utilities Maintenance Shop became the first county project to meet net-zero energy status.

About

The Performance Excellence Awards are part of King County’s effort to become the best-run government by embracing Lean thinking, data and measurement, teamwork and respect for people, performance excellence, and an unyielding commitment to continuous improvement.

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography