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CIO Academy Awards: And the Winners Are ...

Following are the public-sector awardees from this week’s California Virtual Public Sector CIO Academy, the annual industry gathering of public- and private-sector technology stakeholders.

Following are the public-sector awardees from this week’s California Virtual Public Sector CIO Academy, the annual industry gathering of public- and private-sector technology stakeholders. The summaries are as they appeared in the program for the event, which was presented by Techwire sister publication Government Technology. The first category is for IT Leadership Awards.

The CIO Academy Award winners are: 

Adam Enos, IT Manager I, Enterprise Analytics & Data Services, CalPERS

Adam promotes trust, collaboration, and innovation while leading a high-performing team that consistently delivers results. He is a model of accountability and consistently goes above and beyond to lead his team. Adam is recognized as a strong leader throughout the organization for his technology vision, advanced data knowledge, and ability to apply strategic thinking and a strengths-based leadership approach to solve complex data problems. Recently, through his key leadership role in the Enterprise Data Management initiative, he collaborated to establish the Enterprise Business Glossary — a tool to promote data acumen and introduce a new level of data consistency across CalPERS.

Aleesah Herup, Senior Manager and Analyst, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy

Aleesah Herup has provided outstanding leadership and direction for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy related to their technology business alignment efforts. Aleesah has done an outstanding job in the utilization of limited resources to provide her business programs with improved and sustainable information technology services and capabilities. Through her leadership, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy has effectively utilized information technology as a business enabler improving the organization’s overall business performance; and wielded various technology solutions to improve stakeholders’ collaboration and program area analysis and delivery efforts. Through Aleesah Herup’s leadership and work, the Conservancy has improved its ability to serve California citizens and stakeholders.

Andy Wu, CDPH Chief Enterprise Architect, California Department of Public Health

Andy Wu, CDPH’s chief enterprise architect (EA), has greatly advanced the maturity and effectiveness of the EA office, establishing CDPH EA standards, processes and governance that are foundational to develop secure new IT systems. Andy was CDPH’s senior architect for new COVID-19 systems including CCRS, CalCONNECT and vaccine systems, working across CDPH to integrate new and existing systems. Andy’s skills and knowledge make him a great mentor and trainer for staff and colleagues and a go-to expert for consultation and advice. Andy is a pillar of CDPH’s technology success, bringing priceless benefit and laying a foundation for the future.

Antonette Ramirez, Information Technology Supervisor II, Chief of Technology Procurements, Department of Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal)

Antonette Ramirez is the chief of the Department of FI$Cal’s Technology Procurements. Over the last year, Antonette has championed the evaluation, planning and procurement of various cloud-based and on-premises technologies in support of FI$Cal’s cloud strategy, technology improvements and innovations, and telework initiatives. Antonette’s outstanding collaboration with various FI$Cal divisions enabled FI$Cal to implement 24 cloud services and save more than $2 million per year in software licensing costs. Antonette’s knowledge of the state’s procurement processes and her leadership helped FI$Cal quickly procure and implement sophisticated collaboration tools and an innovative reservation system, and seamlessly transition the departmental staff to telework.

Antony Kolitsos, Information Security and Privacy Officer, California Department of Rehabilitation

In 2020, Antony Kolitsos exemplified exceptional leadership responding to challenges presented by COVID-19. In early March, as the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) prepared for the possibility of a work-from-home order, Antony began exploring innovative ways to meet this need. Over the course of two weeks, he worked to leverage a VPN solution the department was testing to increase remote connectivity capacity from 200 employees to 1,400. Not only was this solution cost-effective and secured with MFA, but it was also accessible for the many DOR employees who use assistive technologies to do their work on a daily basis. Antony led his teams to create a secure staff portal on the department’s public-facing website. This portal allowed all employees to access critical information about remote access and resources to assist them with teleworking questions and needs. Antony and the network team worked with the DOR’s VoIP vendor to find a way to stand up soft phone service that was not being offered at the time. They came up with an approach, tested and piloted for accessibility, and made the service available to all 1,900 DOR employees throughout California.

Through the rest of 2020, Antony and his team helped ensure the department’s immediate needs were met, but they also helped position DOR for the future. Antony’s innovative thinking and leadership were exemplary and absolutely critical to the department’s ability to transition to remote work and continue to deliver services to the DOR’s constituents.

Anusha Venkat, Project Manager, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Anusha managed two key projects for the enterprise that assisted the organization in adopting telework practices for the last year. She was instrumental in managing the implementation of multi-factor authentication (MFA), ensuring that necessary security was implemented in a remote work environment. This included coordinating with over 30,000 staff to educate users in using the authenticator. She was also the project manager for the Microsoft Teams implementation, impacting over 45,000 staff within the agency. She led the implementation and the technical teams to educate, resolve issues, and document for a successful implementation within three months (two months early).

Badri Ganesan, ITM1 – Director for Enterprise Test and Analysis, Health Benefit Exchange – Covered California

Badri epitomizes can-do in his service to a broad base of CalHEERS constituents and stakeholders. This year, Badri and his team partnered with OSI, DHCS and CWDA to transition the CalHEERS platform from the original system integrator to a new delivery partner. This colossal effort delivered reimagined processes, relationships, and partnership agreements to ensure stable operations and business as usual while onboarding a new team of analysts, engineers, and project managers. With this new partnership, Badri is delivering innovations including migrating CalHEERS to the cloud and an improved defect mitigation process to meet the changing needs of the organization.

Barney Gomez, Vice Chancellor of Digital Innovation and Infrastructure, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office

Barney Gomez spearheaded a data lake/data warehouse initiative with the primary goal of centralizing and managing the data subjects’ security, control and privacy within the data ecosystem, which eventually became the central core of maintaining those concepts. Throughout the initiative, Barney encouraged and supported his IT staff to develop leadership skills by proposing and participating in new data projects and to visualize how these projects would fit into the whole technology ecosystem — centered on the data lake/data warehouse and its services.

Bill Short, IT Specialist 1, Health Benefit Exchange – Covered California

Bill exhibited exceptional leadership during the busiest open enrollment period in history. Bill is responsible for access management. He supported the Service Center Division’s need to grow from 600 to 1,200 staff in 45 days during the annual open enrollment period. Bill deployed a number of innovative process improvements that enabled him to scale to meet this incredible volume and maintain service-level agreements while tirelessly keeping other key initiatives and operational activities on track including design and implementation of an optimized employee onboarding and separation process that will be deployed in the new Workday HCM solution.

Carolyn Nordstrom, Deputy Director, California PMO, California Department of Technology

CDT partnered with L.A. County and CDPH to pilot The site streamlines the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through county clinics and mega-vaccine events managed by local health departments, medical providers, and CalOES/FEMA. From an initial pilot in L.A., CDT added San Diego County, followed by a location in San Francisco. Key staff include Stephanie Allen and Ron Robinette from CDT; and Eric Norton and Josh Pocus from CDPH. David Cardenas, Dulmini Wilson and Claire Gerashaw from Los Angeles County made crucial design decisions to make My Turn work in their jurisdiction. There are now more than 2 million Californians registered to learn eligibility, and more than 269,000 had been vaccinated through the system as of 2/17.

Chris Batara, IT Specialist II, Information Security, CalPERS

Chris Batara’s security expertise and collaborative work ethic contributes to CalPERS’ strong security posture and progress. As a CalPERS cloud security architect, he was instrumental in transitioning CalPERS into a secure hybrid-cloud environment. He partners closely with cross-divisional teams to tune web applications, firewalls, and systems while remaining vigilant against malicious traffic. Chris’s innovative mindset ensures that team members have the security resources needed to protect against, detect and respond to cyber threats. Chris believes in developing strategic vendor partnerships. While evaluating a current CalPERS appliance service, he discovered innovative ways to increase the CalPERS security posture, without increasing licensing costs.

Craig Schjoneman, Chief of Technology Operations, Department of Fish and Wildlife

Craig Schjoneman has provided outstanding leadership and direction to the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) related to the delivery and sustainability of enterprise technology capabilities and services. Craig has been instrumental in the department’s ability to utilize advanced information technology capabilities and capacity to help the various program areas meet their business missions and objectives. Craig has provided outstanding strategic and tactical direction to management and staff. His work has led to improved services and improvement in IT operations. He has provided leadership and direction in the utilization of cloud and shared services resulting in improved technology capabilities and capacity. Craig has provided leadership in the architecture, development and delivery of specialized technologies which assist DFW in performing their critical mission at the highest level. Craig has helped to transform and improve the ways the department delivers and utilizes technology to better meet critical business missions.

David Hawley, SAP Operations Manager, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

In June 2020, with CDCR needing to dramatically transform existing face-to-face business processes to remote and virtual processes, Dave Hawley was tasked with the implementation and operation of DocuSign. In addition to his ongoing, regular duties, Dave single-handedly learned the product well beyond the simple function of just signing documents, analyzed the most significant uses of the solution, developed a Center of Excellence and Governance structure to prioritize other uses, developed a communication campaign for adoption, trained thousands of users, and created a support mechanism for the new business function; all with existing staff and funding.

David Newaj, Assistant Information Systems Director, San Joaquin County Information Systems Division

2020 was a demanding year for the country as well as San Joaquin County’s citizens, employees and operations. Despite the pandemic, civil unrest, political uncertainty and personnel turnover, San Joaquin and the Information Systems Division (ISD) rose to the challenge. Mr. Newaj, assistant director, guided ISD operations and personnel, despite personal adversity, in an unwavering manner. County staff setups were quickly reimagined to a telework posture, minimizing COVID-19 exposure while keeping all essential services operating. ISD staff supported election operations to make sure everyone’s vote counted. Mr. Newaj assisted in developing and rolling out the county's digital strategy and moving the backup data center to the floating barge. Mr. Newaj’s decades-long understanding of county operations and personnel made these successes possible. Mr. Newaj provided leadership in a situation that would have humbled any other individual. His dedication and desire is truly inspirational.

David Sanabria, Chief Data Strategist, California Health and Human Services Agency

In an agency that is a leader in the state’s data community, David Sanabria stands out as an indispensable data trailblazer, thought leader and doer. His achievements include leading the California Health and Human Services Agency’s (CHHS) Data Analytics Workgroup, critical to developing the CHHS culture of data; being instrumental in developing the MyChildcare app, which connects parents with available daycare across California; and leading the CHHS Agency Data Exchange, which will allow CHHS to better understand Californians and their needs through data. If there is a critical data project in CHHS, Chief Data Strategist David Sanabria plays a key role.

Deanne Wertin, Deputy Agency Information Officer, California Health and Human Services Agency

Deanne Wertin, deputy agency information officer for CHHS, is responsible for the state’s largest IT project portfolio. She has led the drive to bridge efforts across departments and ensure that all projects align with the agency’s strategy to provide more holistic services centered on individual Californians in need. Her passion and depth of experience have led the agency to focus on strategic efforts like agile implementation and interoperability. Deanne consistently advocates for the needs of the CHHS departments, and during the pandemic she stepped up to support multiple efforts around COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in addition to her other duties.

Elizabeth Slaven, IT Specialist I, Information Security, CalPERS

Elizabeth exhibits leadership as the lead over several enterprise-wide assessment projects. What initially began as the HIPAA Risk Assessment Project has now become HIPAA Risk Assessment, Process Data Assessment, and Process Map Risk Assessment efforts. Elizabeth is leading cross-divisional teams comprised of subject matter experts and business contacts. She has proven her leadership by proactively taking on the challenge of improving CalPERS' HIPAA posture and has exemplified her strong work ethic, dedication and expertise through her efforts. Elizabeth has also created many documents, policies and job aids in support of the assessment work her teams are spearheading.

Enrique Parker, Chief Technology Officer, Covered California

In March 2020, Enrique Parker and his infrastructure and operations teams successfully transitioned 1,400 Covered California employees, including almost 500 service center representatives responsible for responding to consumer health-care insurance coverage questions during an unprecedented pandemic, to work from home.

As this emergency action became more permanent, Enrique led cross-functional efforts to ensure employees were productive in their new work-from-home environment. These initiatives included upgrades to infrastructure and monitoring, platforms, support processes, and organizational change management supporting effective communication and collaboration in an enterprise that had largely worked in offices or service center facilities prior to March.

Gloria Simas, Chief, Enterprise Applications, Covered California

Gloria led the fast-tracked delivery of a consumer-friendly, accessible mobile application ( supporting the nationwide campaign to engage and enroll 16 million uninsured Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through Gloria’s leadership, Covered California’s Enterprise Applications team was able to create a fully functioning solution in 4 weeks. The mobile-friendly website ensured the national campaign was able to meet the needs of constituents using their preferred method and includes Twitter integration showcasing celebrity ambassadors including Steph Curry and Sara Silverman. Gloria’s team created a complete content management system to support press releases and collateral, which made the campaign a success.

Holly Howard, COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program Director, California Department of Public Health

It is with great pleasure that we nominate CalCONNECT’s Program Director, Holly Howard. CalCONNECT is the state of California COVID-19 contact tracing program. Holly takes it upon herself to always be available to her team and encourages a collaborative environment for building solutions together. In addition to being an incredibly supportive leader amongst her team members, Holly is committed to ensuring the department offers an extensive support model for local health departments. She level sets every week with a positive reminder that everyone’s contributions matter, and we want to show the same gratitude to such a strong and committed leader.

Jack Ell, Chief of Enterprise Systems and Infrastructure Services, California Department of Tax and Fee Administration

Jack Ell led a multidisciplinary team through a successful implementation of a department-wide work-from-home environment in the weeks following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included deploying more than 2,000 laptops, standing up a new VPN infrastructure, and implementing a VoIP system. Through Mr. Ell’s leadership efforts, almost all of the 4,000 team members of the CDTFA were able to perform their essential work duties remotely in a matter of weeks.

Jagmeet Bhinder, Senior Telecommunications Engineer, CalPERS

Jagmeet manages the CalPERS network team. Under his leadership and guidance, CalPERS managed to triple the capacity of the remote work infrastructure almost overnight — enabling seamless transition to remote work. Jagmeet’s leadership vision guides the success of the data center, recently advancing the capabilities of the CalPERS network. He was instrumental in the success of the projects like software-defined networking, public cloud adoption, business resiliency and disaster recovery, and ISP optimization. CalPERS made huge advancements in improving the network, including providing connectivity between cloud providers and standing up the edge infrastructure, making it a truly hybrid entity.

James Pearce, Client Technology Chief, California Natural Resources Agency

James Pearce has provided leadership and technical direction in support of the California Natural Resources Agency and their small departments and organizations technology service support. James has led the advancement and effective use of client and software-as-a-service technologies in support of the program areas’ business mission. James Pearce has provided leadership, coaching, and technical services to management and staff members, which has resulted in a more effective use of technology in support of business performance levels. He has been instrumental in the advancement of collaboration, cloud services, and remote technologies, resulting in improved digital transformation of business areas.

Jim Cooley, Agency Technology Director, Department of Water Resources

Jim Cooley has been instrumental in the California Natural Resources Agency’s and Department of Water Resources’ networking modernization efforts. Jim has provided outstanding leadership and technical direction in the design, development, implementation, and support of a modernized data center and shared agency network environment that services the 36 Natural Resources Agency organizations. His ability to strategically design for the future while providing tactically engineered solutions for today has facilitated the agency capabilities to provide critical networking shared services using state-of-the-art methodologies and tools. Through his leadership, the network team has been able to increase and enhance technology capabilities and capacity for the organizations in support of their business and operational missions. His ability to provide coaching and mentorship to other system engineers has resulted in a strong overall network technical team. Helping other system engineers to learn and grow is a true example of leadership from within. Jim Cooley has exhibited outstanding technical and coaching leadership, paving the way for others.

Joe Wong, Manager, Employment Development Department

Joe is the manager over the Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC). The pandemic brought a greater need for reports, data analysis and dashboards, which tremendously expanded BICC’s scope and workload almost overnight. This stretched BICC’s limited resources of 14 staff to work seven days a week and, when necessary, work until 2 a.m. Under Joe’s leadership, BICC was instrumental in continuously providing data and analytic services to fight fraud and to assist EDD executives in understanding the claims/payment situation. He was also successful in streamlining a complex data extraction process and upgrading BICC’s SAS environment with minimal impact to other systems.

John Wood, IT Project & Portfolio Management Section Manager, Department of Transportation

As the Project and Portfolio Management Section manager, John Wood has primary responsibility over the Project Management Unit, Business Analysis Unit, Software Quality Management, Customer Relations Unit, and IT certification. John worked with his teams to mature their offices, develop standardized best practices, streamline business processes and build transparency with Caltrans IT projects. Under John’s leadership, his team has significantly improved project reporting and visibility with the implementation of a Tableau dashboard for all of Caltrans to ascertain portfolio and project health easily. In addition, John has streamlined the intake process and expanded the capability of much-needed tools such as Microfocus Application Lifecycle Management for requirements management and testing. His leadership and guidance for continuous process improvements have increased the project completion and success rate. With John’s leadership, the challenging COVID-19 working environment has not slowed the department's ability to deliver its IT portfolio of projects, currently consisting of five reportable and five non-reportable projects.

Joseph Maio, Chief Information Security Officer, Department of Fish and Wildlife

As chief information security officer, Joseph Maio has provided outstanding leadership and technical direction to the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) in the improvement and sustainability of their information technology security ecosystem. Joseph has done an outstanding job in the development of key policies, processes and practices, providing both strategic and tactical direction for the department’s overall security improvement efforts. He has provided leadership and direction to DFW in the implementation and utilization of critical security practices and systems. Joseph Maio also serves as an effective change agent, working with business and technology management and staff and educating them in the need for and execution of security practices and use of security methods and services that make good business sense and provide protection for the organizations’ information and system assets.

Kamal Kathyal, Information Technology Manager II, Department of Transportation

Kamal serves as chief of the End-user Service Branch (ESB) at Caltrans. As chief of the ESB, Kamal is responsible for providing direction and best practices for IT professionals for supporting more than 25,000 endpoint devices that enable more than 20,000 employees to perform their essential duties in a very complex and distributed environment, to advance Caltrans’ mission. Kamal has demonstrated exceptional leadership in providing excellent customer service to Caltrans employees over the past 12 months. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he played a critical leadership role in establishing and implementing effective processes and procedures to transition more than 20,000 employees from office work to telework. He and his teams were able to accomplish the transition in a very short period of time. In addition to the day-to-day operational challenges during the pandemic, he successfully led a very large team of IT professionals in planning, designing and implementing a world-class Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) solution. His leadership and successful implementation of the ITSM has enhanced Caltrans IT service delivery and improved operational efficiency and effectiveness. The ITSM solution successfully implemented under Kamal’s leadership includes hardware and software asset management, incident management, request for fulfillment, change management, release management, knowledge management and problem management.

Kas Kurmis, Applications Manager, San Joaquin County

Kasper Kurmis is an invaluable member of the San Joaquin County Information Systems Division (ISD) management team. Kasper (Kas) began his second career with San Joaquin County as an information systems manager after retiring from a long and distinguished career as an IT manager with the United States Postal Service. Since joining San Joaquin County in 2014, Kas has performed an instrumental role as the IT manager responsible for the software support and development for the county’s enterprise systems, including the ERP system, Peoplesoft, and the law and justice systems. Kas brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from his work in the federal government that he leverages to bring about efficiencies and increased productivity to the department. As the applications manager, Kas has consistently elevated and improved customer relationships and satisfaction in the delivery and reliability of the county’s enterprise systems. Kas has worked diligently to develop the technical and professional skills of his direct report staff by providing effective mentoring, career guidance and training to ensure the county has staff capable and ready to assume leadership roles when the opportunities arise.

Kori Arbis, IT Manager I, CalRecycle

Kori Arbis’s leadership and management style have played a key role in the success of many projects within CalRecycle. She has focused on maturing the IT Project Management Lifecycle, implementing new streamlined processes, customer engagement, and IT governance within CalRecycle. She has played a major role in the project execution, including defining project manager roles, project portfolios, project sponsors, project charters, project training, team building, and team motivation to facilitate the achievement of successful projects. Some of the high-level projects that were completed are as follows: Electronic Timekeeping, including accessibility; Implemented Project Charter templates; Project Resource Planning; SharePoint Online Migrations; AB434 work efforts; Public Comments Web Portal; Live Polling solution; DevOps Standard and Implementation Guide; M&O Backlog Prioritization; and many more. Kori’s strong leadership and project management experience ensured the projects stayed on track and were completed in a timely and cost-effective manner using the project management principles and best practices.

LaDonna Green, Information Technology Manager II, CalPERS

LaDonna, chief over the myCalPERS development section, leads a large multidisciplinary team supporting a complex system that is the very soul of the CalPERS mission. Her leadership and commitment contributes to the effective use of the myCalPERS system in the administration of health and pension benefits for millions of members. LaDonna is an unparalleled advocate for her team and relentless in her pursuit of providing high-quality services and solutions to her business partners throughout the enterprise.

Manraj Singh, Solutions Architect, CA Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development

Early in the pandemic, a shortage of nurses in nursing homes contributed to challenges in serving one of California’s most vulnerable populations. Facebook generously provided a donation for stipends for 50,000 licensed nurses that provided supplemental financial support during the crisis. Manraj Singh was the lead architect and developer for developing the digital application used to deliver the stipends, rapidly deploying the solution to the public in five days leveraging innovative cloud technologies. Mr. Singh utilized technology platforms and tools in innovative ways that capitalized on cloud investments, single sign-on authentication using social media accounts and containerized application architecture.

Manveer Bola, Acting Chief Technology Innovation Officer, California Department of Technology

During a pandemic, accurate information is a matter of life and death. CDT quickly contributed tools to aid Gov. Gavin Newsom and the public. Bola’s team provided dashboards with interactive data by county in two days. Since then, 20 other dashboards provide hospital and equipment availability, unemployment information and more. was built in four days to help the public protect itself. CA Notify, a smartphone app, has more than 9 million registered users voluntarily participating in contact tracing that protects privacy. Most recently, Bola headed the launch of the Safe Schools for All Hub. CDT’s Isaac Cabrera, Betty Jablonsky, Blaine Wasylkiw, Richard Gillespie , Artem Khomishen, Shamal Siwan, Eric Kauffman, and Anneli Wong were project contributors.

Maria Bonilla, IT Manager I, Employment Development Department

Maria Bonilla is the chief of EDD’S Telecom Section. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Telecom Section had to quickly procure and deploy over 8,000 mobile phones, as well as new video conferencing tools and equipment. In addition, the team was able to stand up a new Virtual Contact Center, to assist with an unprecedented number of unemployment insurance claims. They provisioned and provided support to over 7,000 vendor call center agents. Under her leadership, EDD implemented SMS text messaging and the chatbot that provided EDD with additional channels of communication to support EDD’s customers. Maria kept her team focused and ensured timeframes were met, all while continuing to provide ongoing support for the enterprise telecommunications needs.

Mark Eubanks, Chief Technology Officer, CalRecycle

Over the last year, Mark has excelled in project management and leadership management to work on the following high-level projects: cloud migration and Azure solutions; data center consolidation; O365 and Share Point Online; implementation of a room reservation solution using a cloud solution; telework solutions; Citrix explanation; implementation of change management board and process; network and infrastructure improvements; telephony solution and improvements; Intune and SCCM improvements; Azure Backup solution and improvements; implementation of printer server; implementation of an electronic timekeeping solution; and many more infrastructure projects. Mark’s leadership skills are directly related to each successful project and his dedication to improving the department by implementing technology solutions. Mark has excellent team building and communication skills. The innovation and creative thinking, as well as the futuristic vision, are just a couple of leadership qualities that Mark has that makes his projects and team successful.

Matthew Schroeder, Chief Application Domain Architect, Department of Water Resources

Mathew Schroeder has provided outstanding leadership for the Department of Water Resources in architecting and implementing enterprise business solutions that are agile and sustainable. He consistently demonstrates a rarely paralleled level of technical acumen and unwavering collaboration. Matt has successfully led the implementation of numerous digital business solutions being utilized across multiple technologies to create a best-of-breed digital ecosystem that has transformed DWR into a digital enterprise. His untiring efforts and can-do attitude have resulted in delivering solutions that have resulted in increased productivity across DWR’s lines of business and achieved respect from his peers, teammates and customers.

Matthew Valdez, Chief Information Security Officer, Department of Water Resources

As chief information security officer, Matthew Valdez has provided outstanding leadership to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) in the delivery and sustainability of a secure information technology environment. Matthew has done an outstanding job in providing both strategic and tactical direction for the department’s overall security improvement efforts. He has provided excellent direction to the department in the implementation and utilization of modern security processes and tools, resulting in an improved information technology security ecosystem. Matthew also operates as an effective change agent, working with business and technology management and staff and educating them in the need for and use of security best practices, methods and services that make good business sense and provide protection for the organizations’ information assets.

Mayura Khanwalkar, Information Technology Manager I, Chief of Application Innovation Services Section, FI$Cal

Mayura Khanwalkar is the chief of department of FI$Cal’s Application Innovation Services Section. Over the last year, Mayura led several customer service and system improvement initiatives that contributed to substantial improvements in FI$Cal system availability and performance. Her leadership and collaboration with various cross-functional teams to implement innovative solutions enabled FI$Cal to provide less than 2.5 seconds of response time for over 93 percent of online pages while maintaining 99.9 percent system availability amidst FI$Cal’s rapid data growth. Mayura’s leadership also enabled FI$Cal to implement a cloud-based, state-of-the-art learning management system for statewide FI$Cal users and integrate it for context-sensitive in-application help.

Narendra Mallela, Section Chief, Employment Development Department

Naren is the chief over the Distributed Applications and Salesforce Section. Naren took control of this section in late 2019 and completely modernized it in just one year. This section works with all EDD program branches and supports over 20 different applications. He not only provided leadership to his staff, but also did coding, upgraded servers and resolved numerous technical issues. Naren’s accomplishments include his leadership in the Salesforce implementation and leg tracker system, and modernization of many small distributed applications to new technology.

Patrick Poon, Manager, Employment Development Department

Patrick is the manager over the Enterprise Cloud Services and Hardware Core teams. Shortly after California’s stay-at-home order was enacted, the EDD had a dire need to transition the entire EDD workforce from working in-office to being completely telework. As the pandemic rapidly grew, EDD’s need to expand its staffing also grew. Patrick’s extensive technical and management experience was instrumental in implementing virtual desktop infrastructure, virtual private network and Workspace One services. This enabled remote access for approximately 12,000 EDD users. Patrick’s dedication has contributed greatly to the success of the IT branch.

Rudy Chavez, ITSII – Network Health Benefit Exchange – Covered California

Rudy Chavez joined Covered California four years ago as a network engineer and quickly become a sought-after member of the team due to his technical and leadership skills as a network engineer. This year, Rudy played a key role in transitioning a 1,000+ seat Covered California service center to a scalable, reliable and flexible cloud solution. Rudy’s professional evolution continued as he became Covered California’s firewall and security solutions architect this year, leading the design and implementation of the solution that transitioned 2,000+ service center reps to securely working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Davidson, Information Technology Manager II, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Scott Davidson supported CDCR’s COVID-19 efforts from the pandemic onset. As CDCR developed new enterprise policies and procedures, Scott provided expert IT consult, working with testing vendors; leading technical strategies streamlining testing and test results data processing and communication; collaborated across offices to aggregate data for consistent reporting; and tied information systems together linking COVID-19 test information with employee health records. In December, as CDCR started its vaccination program, Scott worked closely with CDCR and CCHCS offices, leading system enhancements enabling staff administering vaccinations to capture data, including a new HL7-compliant interface to the DPH system for mandatory vaccine reporting.

Shelley Cheechov, Information Technology Supervisor II, Department of Transportation

As an IT supervisor II in the Enterprise Application Services unit, Shelley has continuously demonstrated dedication to serving both IT and business with unparalleled service. Shelley manages Caltrans Staff Central, a critical timekeeping and HR system which supports over 20,000 employees and supports the needs of Caltrans, the State Controller’s Office (SCO) and the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR). With time-sensitive updates required in the Personal Leave Program (PLP) in 2020, Shelley partnered with HR and led a cross-functional team to successfully implement significant application enhancements in half the time usually allocated for such changes. PLP 2020 involved complex integration to enable SCO’s new leave code for timesheets and to interface with SCO’s California Leave Accounting System (CLAS). Shelley’s leadership demonstrated her ability to provide clear direction, implement innovative solutions and deliver critical functionality ahead of schedule — all while serving the organization with data integrity and quality to achieve desired business outcomes.

Sonia Edwards, Information Technology Manager I, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Sonia Edwards led many innovative data analytics projects that helped CDCR gain valuable insights quickly. The projects included data related to protecting inmate rights, COVID-19 data tracking, and addressing inmate complaints and grievances in a timely manner. The dashboard was designed for executive-level staff and allows for monitoring of trends based on thresholds, or risk tolerance levels, from month to month within each institution, such as Staff Misconduct, Property Claims, Emergency Claims, Discrimination, and Offender Safety and Security, including Use of Force and PREA separately. Through the monitoring of this data, CDCR developed more efficacious strategies for addressing the occurrence of these incidences.

Sukhjit Badwal, Unified Communication and Collaboration Supervisor, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Sukhjit was the technical lead for two enterprise projects. He installed and configured Microsoft Teams as an agency asset working with CCHCS. He led the pilot groups, which included key personnel from Legal and Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). He worked with BPH to ensure the implementation and product would work to conduct hearings, a key component for CDCR. He also was the technical lead implementing Video Visitation for Inmates/Friends and Family. This project was reported to the Governor’s Office and had to be implemented within a six-week timeframe.

Sylvia Dumalig, Information Technology Manager I, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Sylvia Dumalig led a team tasked with bringing critical services to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) inmates, their friends and families. These services are critical to the CDCR inmate population, but became more important because COVID-19 created a need for innovative communication services in response to the closure of in-person visiting at CDCR’s 35 institutions. Sylvia led major efforts simultaneously with multi-disciplinary teams from multiple organizations within CDCR and technology vendors. The efforts included a major procurement for inmate technology services to bring inmates and their friends and families significantly lower phone rates and other services.

Thomas Buno, Digital Services Unit Supervisor, CA Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development

Early in the pandemic, a shortage of nurses in nursing homes contributed to challenges in serving one of California’s most vulnerable populations. Facebook generously provided a donation for stipends for 50,000 licensed nurses that provided supplemental financial support during the crisis. Thomas Buno was the lead user experience designer and data manager for the digital application used to deliver the stipends, responsible for front-end design, business analysis, geocoding, and digital communications. Mr. Buno worked with the program team to understand requirements and translate them into a functional front-end design wireframe, rapidly iterating on the diagram as program policy was refined.

Tim Leffingwell, Server/Active Directory/Virtual Services Manager, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Tim lead a team of engineers to create a Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) to support telework at the beginning of COVID-19. He evaluated implementation options to determine the one that would be the quickest, most secure and had the best adaptability for the users. He led his team on documenting the use of the product and successfully implemented the solution within a one-month timeframe. He also continued to ensure the product over the past year to include external CDCR users, including the Governor’s Office staff to access CDCR applications in a more effective manner.

Todd Ibbotson, Information Security Officer, Employment Development Department

As the ISO, Todd is responsible for developing enterprise-wide information security policy and direction, overseeing the department’s Information Security Program, and acting as the department’s privacy officer. In 2020, Todd was responsible for two major efforts related to fraud. He was responsible for finding a solution to solve identity proofing of unemployment insurance claimants, preventing fraudsters from using stolen personal information to create claims. This solution allowed for faster processing of claims as the identity of the person was resolved in the first step of the claim. Todd was also responsible for finding a solution to solve EDD’s backlog of claims.

Valerie Stanfield, Branch Chief, Technical Management and Operations Branch, IT Services Division, California Department of Rehabilitation

Over the last 12 months, Valerie Stanfield served the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) through exceptional leadership in preparation for and response to COVID-19. In late February 2020, as concerns about the novel coronavirus were escalating, Valerie was a catalyst for proactive preparation in case state employees were directed to work from home. She played a critical role in developing and executing two plans: one to prepare for statewide telework and another to deliver and support the ability for DOR staff to telework full time. Her leadership helped keep multiple teams and efforts organized and aligned.

Throughout the year, as work from home was prolonged and DOR adjusted, Valerie led her managers and teams to adjust accordingly. Her leadership not only helped DOR employees transition to remote work so they could continue to deliver services to Californians with disabilities, but also helped her IT team find a new rhythm and adjust to doing their jobs in the “new temporary normal.” Valerie’s leadership was exceptional and critical to the ability to transition to remote work and continue to carry out DOR’s mission in 2020.

Valerie Williams, CROS Project Director, California Department of Tax and Fee Administration

Valerie Williams has been the Centralized Revenue Opportunity System (CROS) Project director since 2019. She previously served in a number of leadership roles on this mission-critical project. The CROS Project was a major, business transformational IT initiative that was successfully implemented in November 2020. Ms. Williams was instrumental in the success of this project. Her strong leadership skills and business acumen helped deliver the project on time and under budget and provided an innovative technology solution that is being used by millions of tax and fee payers.

Vanessa Nguyen Bianan, IT Supervisor II, IT Program Management Branch, California Department of Technology

Vanessa Nguyen Bianan leads the IT Program Management (ITPM) team and consistently exceeds customers’ expectations by going beyond her normal duties. In her most recent project, Bianan was a key member of CDT’s team that negotiated the statewide consolidation of Microsoft O365 via the Microsoft Enterprise License Agreement. This team obtained best-in-nation pricing resulting in multi-tiered discounts over five years that provide a 25 percent average discount with the potential to increase the average discount to 29.4 percent for all participating entities.

Vergel Simtim, Lead Operations Center Engineer, California Natural Resources Agency

Vergel Simtim and Wesley Robertson as lead Operations Center engineers have been instrumental in the California Natural Resources Agency’s (CNRA) critical relocation and modernization of the CNRA Data Center and its affiliated operations that service and support the technology ecosystems of CNRA’s 36 departments, conservancies, boards, commissions and councils. In addition, these outstanding young co-leaders have led the development and implementation of the New Natural Resources Agency headquarters’ state-of-the-art technology environment that is being deployed in the building, which will house 12 CNRA organizations and 4,400 employees this year. These efforts have required leadership, planning, engineering and drive, which all have been provided in an outstanding manner by both Wesley and Vergel. They have provided outstanding leadership and technical direction in the engineering and sustainability of the efforts. Their ability to lead and execute highly technical and complex activities has been a key success factor in CNRA's progressive implementation and use of advanced technologies. Their ability to provide expertise in multiple technical disciplines in an agency-wide team environment, while continuing to support and help other agency-wide technical engineers, is a true example of leadership from within. Through their leadership, the team has been able to continue to increase and enhance technology capabilities and capacity for all agency organizations in support of their business and operational missions. And all of this in the midst of a pandemic — that is the pure definition of leadership actions getting it done!

Wesley Robertson, Lead Operations Center Engineer, California Natural Resources Agency

Wesley Robertson and Vergel Simtim, as lead Operations Center engineers, have been instrumental in the California Natural Resources Agency’s (CNRA) critical relocation and modernization of the CNRA Data Center and its affiliated operations that service and support the technology ecosystems of CNRA’s 36 departments, conservancies, boards, commissions and councils. In addition, these outstanding young co-leaders have led the development and implementation of the New Natural Resources Agency headquarters’ state-of-the-art technology environment that is being deployed in the building, which will house 12 CNRA organizations and 4,400 employees this year. These efforts have required leadership, planning, engineering and drive, which all have been provided in an outstanding manner by both Wesley and Vergel. They have provided outstanding leadership and technical direction in the engineering and sustainability of the efforts. Their ability to lead and execute highly technical and complex activities has been a key success factor in CNRA's progressive implementation and use of advanced technologies. Their ability to provide expertise in multiple technical disciplines in an agency-wide team environment, while continuing to support and help other agency-wide technical engineers, is a true example of leadership from within. Through their leadership, the team has been able to continue to increase and enhance technology capabilities and capacity for all agency organizations in support of their business and operational missions. And all of this in the midst of a pandemic — that is the pure definition of leadership actions getting it done!


Toquyen Collier, Chief Technology Officer, Department of Health Care Services

During 2020, Collier not only shifted the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) from an office-based workforce to one that is approximately 85 percent teleworking, but she did so within a week’s time that resulted in very little downtime for the critical DHCS workforce. However, what was most impressive about Ms. Collier during 2020 is that while dealing with the ramifications of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Collier worked tirelessly to mature DHCS IT. She drove the centralization of IT infrastructure and application responsibilities throughout the department and built a stronger, enterprise-focused team.

As part of this focus on maturing IT, she took on responsibility for critical systems that are responsible for monthly processing of billions of dollars of managed care capitated payments (over 80 percent of the total Medi-Cal annual payments). Also, her responsibility of providing critical technology customer support to DHCS and the California Health and Human Services Agency expanded by approximately 30 percent. This included taking over support for the largest division in the department, which makes up over 20 percent of the staff in DHCS. While taking on these additional responsibilities, Ms. Collier worked to implement important, new processes and tools that allow for greater efficiency and effective operations. This includes new governance/architecture processes, incident management processes, and a new IT Service Desk tool.

Without Collier’s leadership, DHCS would not have been able to make it through 2020 as successfully as it did. Her leadership is an invaluable part of the department.


Gary Renslo, Chief Information Officer, Department of General Services

Gary Renslo’s contributions extend beyond DGS to the state of California. Gary has a resolve, penchant for problem solving, calm demeanor and focus on collaborative solutions.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gary led the DGS transition to telework quickly and seamlessly. DGS was well positioned because Gary had previously challenged the team to move infrastructure and software to the cloud. Furthermore, he leveraged data collected from telework agreements to create key performance indicators that DGS used to identify additional telework opportunities. He made training available for collaboration tools to support the organization to work more effectively. Through Gary’s leadership, DGS has led the state in adopting telework best practices and has successfully transitioned 83 percent of eligible staff to teleworking.

Gary is most proud of the team he built and the strong, collaborative culture fostering growth and development. He is developing a Career Advancement Roadmap leveraging CalHR’s Core Competency Model to identify skills staff need to reach career goals. Gary consistently sponsors staff for the IT Leadership Academy and is sending all supervisors and managers to the government leadership academy through Sacramento State.

Gary acts as a strategic business partner addressing operational needs with IT solutions that are high quality, efficient and cost effective. DGS is a complex organization with over 30 unique lines of business and upwards of 140 applications to support. Gary looks for common core services to leverage support for multiple programs. He has led the adoption of ServiceNow to support core IT services and for workflow and rapid application development. DGS has been recognized by the National Association of State Chief Administrators two years running for innovative work on secure file transfer and eSignatures. Furthermore, Gary has spurred development of KPIs including telework and budget dashboards that provide real-time data for decision-making.

Gary has developed a culture of service that encourages excellence. Gary embraces IT service management, agile, dev ops and continuous improvement. His project management team provides support and guidance to the rest of the department through tools and training.

Gary regularly collaborates with other entities to improve statewide IT. He established a statewide ServiceNow workgroup with 40 participating departments to leverage common experiences and improve the state’s capabilities. Gary was instrumental in implementing the state’s adoption of eSignature for contracts, working through challenges with the State Controller’s Office. Gary supports external organizations with telework, helping define equipment standards, making the Telework Dashboard available to other state agencies, and developing a telework information website. Gary sits on the Information Technology Executive Council (ITEC) and the Technology Operations Advisory Council (TOAC). Many state entities look to Gary for his technology leadership and guidance.

Additionally, Gary continued to tend to day-to-day business. His team completed 11 projects initiated by DGS’ IT Governance. He completed significant maintenance and operations support through modernizing applications, upgrading infrastructure and further migrating to the cloud. He evolved processes to support more effective product development. His team provided timely response to 52,000 tickets submitted by customers.


Ellen Ishimoto, Former Acting State Chief Technology Officer and Acting Deputy Director, Office of Technology, California Department of Technology (Currently, Retired Annuitant)

Ellen Ishimoto is a proven veteran of state government service and a leader in the IT community. Her 36 years of service, with 30 of those spent in the IT field, included seven years as CIO for the California State Lottery. She also held various leadership roles at the Department of Transportation and the Teale Data Center, as well as serving as chair of the State of California Enterprise Architecture Committee.

Prior to her retirement at the end of 2020, Ellen had served as CDT’s deputy state chief technology officer since October 2014. Following Richard Rogers' move to CDT’s directorate in May 2019, she stepped in to fill the dual role of acting state chief technology officer and acting deputy director for the Office of Technology, where she served for well over a year until retiring. While in those important positions, she accomplished a lot:

  • Proved instrumental in increasing the state’s technology capacity to support telework. Under Ellen, between March and April capacity increased by 92 percent. The percentage of state employees who teleworked climbed from less than 5 percent to 90 percent in that same period.
  • Issued Emergency Telework Guidance documents, including security and privacy instructions for remote workers.
  • Negotiated with vendors to provide discounted or free products/services to the state.
  • Developed a collaborative effort with Washington state and Oregon to negotiate significant savings on Microsoft products.
  • Increased the number of cloud-based solution service subscriptions by 319 percent over the previous year.
  • Launched the new SD-WAN and Managed Cloud Services.
  • Oversaw the hosting and data migration of the city of Los Angeles’ mainframe services to the state data center.
Ellen had some big shoes to fill when CDT Director Amy Tong and Richard Rogers tapped her to assume these demanding OTech roles, especially at such a critical time for California.

Richard Rogers said of her, “There really wasn’t any debate about who would fill the OTech position after I left. Ellen was the ideal candidate to take it over, and she kept it running like a well-oiled machine.”

Ellen Ishimoto’s tireless work and significant accomplishments throughout her long career make her an excellent choice to receive the California Public Sector CIO Academy Hall of Fame Award.

Richard Rogers, Former Deputy State Chief Information Officer and Chief Deputy Director, California Department of Technology (Currently, Retired Annuitant)

Since 1986, Richard Rogers has been a force in state technology. Following his father and two brothers into public service, he carries with him their same determined leadership qualities, work ethic, compassion for people and understanding that his job makes a difference in the lives of others. Recently, he announced that he would retire at the end of February 2021 after 35 years of dedicated state service.

Rogers has worn many hats at the California Department of Technology, and along the way he became a pioneer. Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him California deputy state chief information officer and chief deputy director for the California Department of Technology. The appointment vaulted him to the highest office held by any Black technology leader in California state government. In another first, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Rogers as California’s first-ever state chief technology officer where he oversaw CDT’s Office of Technology Services. He was responsible for running the state’s data center and for providing technology services for state and local government entities. Rogers’ innovative approach to increasing cloud adoption added three rounds of public cloud service solutions to the state’s data center portfolio. Under his leadership, government migration to cloud services soared — and it continues to soar thanks to his efforts. In only 18 months, he collaborated with the government community to migrate more than 180,000 emails to the state’s email cloud.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rogers’ leadership proved vital to the success of leveraging technology to overcome the spread of the virus. When EDD hit a snag in processing unemployment claims, Rogers was the first to step up. Appointed to Gov. Newsom’s EDD Strike Team, he worked tirelessly to assist EDD in remediating its unemployment insurance backlog and improving its UI processing.

Rogers’ successes are as distinguished as the man himself. He has shared his extensive knowledge to help educate, train and motivate future state technology leaders through public speaking, participating in CDT’s academies and in its mentoring program; and he continues to be a strong proponent of workforce diversity.

As a key leader of CDT’s directorate, Director Amy Tong relies on Rogers to move the organization forward in the state’s collective effort to modernize technology. Rogers has said that one of his notable achievements is his participation in the California Statewide Technology Strategic Plan, Vision 2023, which lays out how technology can empower not just more efficient and effective government, but a compassionate and fair government.

As a retired annuitant, Rogers will continue to be one of the state’s best technology assets for CDT and the entire state IT community.

Upon his retirement, Richard Rogers will leave an IT legacy. Following are his Top 10 team projects in chronological order:

  • Disability Insurance at EDD — his first state automation delivery project.
  • The creation of the first state self-service multimedia kiosks used to improve the intake of unemployment insurance claims in state field offices.
  • A self-service job search application and workstations installed at McClellan and Mather Air Force bases that helped our military find new jobs during base closings.
  • A new state benefits program (Paid Family Leave), implemented within one year.
  • The state’s first Center of Excellence solution (Document and Imaging Management Center) declared by the state CIO.
  • Representing California as a member of the Accredited Standards Committee X12 to develop a new tax data exchange standard for the IRS, states and tax agents, still leveraged by tax agencies today.
  • Collaborating with the state community to migrate over 180,000 emails within 18 months to the state email cloud solution.
  • Adding three rounds of IaaS and PaaS public cloud service solutions to the state’s data center portfolio.
  • Representing CDT on Gov. Newsom’s EDD Strike Team to assist in remediating the department’s unemployment insurance backlog and improve its UI processing.
  • Participating in the creation of Vision 2023, perhaps the most inspirational product the IT community has created together.
Rogers has said the most difficult thing to leave behind is the hard-working state employees he has had the pleasure to work with every day.

Andrew Armani, Former Agency Information Officer, Government Operations Agency and Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (Retired)

Many people are hesitant to take chances and embrace change. Andrew Armani isn’t one of them. It would be a safe bet to describe Andrew as an advocate for change management as he was always a great innovator. Throughout his professional service and decades of advancing government technology, Andrew said that change is the only constant in IT.

While he may have recently retired after 30 years of dedicated state service, Andrew’s accomplishments remain significant. He had more than a dozen chief information officers under him while agency information officer for two of the state’s biggest entities — the Government Operations Agency (GovOps) and the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Today, two AIOs share that role.

An advocate of cloud migration, Andrew saw the need for moving from on-premises software to a cloud-based solution. In fact, one of the most significant and challenging tasks he undertook during his three decades of government service was migrating 180,000 state worker email boxes to the cloud.

Andrew’s legacy is more than noticeable. As director for E-Services, he brought uniformity and coherence to the consolidation of more than 130 independent state websites. When e.Republic first began ranking government websites on a variety of factors, California rated 48 out of 50. Working with then state CIO Teri Takai, Andrew and Teri brought the state into single digits and, ultimately, to No. 1. Additionally, Andrew has stated that he is very proud to be the founder of the CIO Academy — a terrific example of innovative and creative thinking that became his hallmark.

Even in retirement, Andrew continues to give to the California tech community. In a 2020 Techwire interview following his retirement Andrew said of his service, “Here, what I do is for the people of California. It may sound silly, but everything I did … was always to try to make it easier for people to deal with the state and the public sector. That’s what’s kept me on project after project — to make that happen.”

Today, Andrew said he still gets calls from people who say the reason they are working for the good of California is due to the legacy he left behind.