Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Employee Spotlight

by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 12/2008

As 2008 comes to a close, it’s fitting to honor District 7 Employee(s) of the Year, as Inside Seven’s final Employee Spotlight of the Year!

Caltrans District 7 recently recognized ten employees, one from each divison, as its first group to be named 2008 Employee of the Year, as part of a new program to honor rank and file staff chosen by their peers and co-workers.

With new guidelines executed by a revised Quality In Caltrans (QIC) program under the direction of Chief Deputy Director, Raja Mitwasi, on November 6, all District 7 employees were invited to gather together to find out who in their divisions was named ‘Employee of the Year.’

“The program is a collaborative effort between Caltrans management and rank and file employees to improve the way Caltrans does business,” says Mitwasi, who reviewed the programs methodology and provided guidance and support. “The celebration focuses on the high achievements of our employees, and recognize this district’s high level of commitment which makes us all proud.”

The first staff members to be named Employee of the Year are (by division and in alphabetical order): Vivian Collins, Administration; Alex Perez, Construction; Kaz Kayoda, Design; Liz Suh, Environmental Planning; Jeanne Bonfilio, External Affairs; Juventino Rosas, Maintenance; Wahib Jreig, Operations; Arnold Parmar, Planning, Public Assistance and Local Assistance; Robert Phan, Program and Project Management; and Bernadette Cotton, Right of Way.

The QIC program was launched this year in May by a 12-member committee and three months later began a mass nomination appeal process to find one most-deserving candidate from each division to hold the title for this distinguished award. The nominees were rated and ranked on possessing these six workplace qualities: teamwork, commitment, dependability, initiative, quality of work and motivation.

The QIC Committee, headed by Shefa Byuhian, District 7 QIC coordinator (Transportation Planning), facilitated and oversaw the nomination process and rating and ranking of the candidates. Committee members are: Shan Wen Cheng (Administration), Mirna Dagher (Program and Planning Management), Jorge Fuentes (Operations), Martha Hetzler (Construction), Khan Hussein (Design), Ron Longazo (Construction), Mark Lyles (Right of Way), Karl Price (Environmental Planning), John Zaki (Maintenance), Betty Bahraini (Program and Planning Management) and Dave White (External Affairs).

Choosing one person from each division was a Herculean task, according to Doug Failing, Caltrans District 7 Director. “Any one of you could have received this award this year. We have a lot of good people who deserve this award and I know that in time, you all will receive this honor. What is important is that the idea to initiate this award program came from the employees and I salute the boldness that goes with taking such a big step. Raja Mitwasi has done a great job driving the Quality Program this year and providing the guidance to establish strong criteria to help select those who best represent us and the qualities that we hold so high,” said Failing.

Caltrans Headquarters is no longer sponsoring the state-wide Quality program and as a result, each of its twelve districts will carry-on the spirit of the program as they wish.

“Unlike award recognition programs of the past, co-workers nominate fellow co-workers within their division for this award. The idea was very different for us, but we were able to promote this concept by talking to individuals. This helps to build morale; this is what we wanted,” said steering committee member, Martha Hetzler.

The one-hour celebration was well-attended by the district’s employees. Each deputy director, or a senior manager, introduced and presented their division’s “Employee of the Year “ with a commemorative plaque, along with accolades, praise, congratulations, thanks and there was also a cash award donated to each person by their own deputy director.

All photos of Employees of the Year can be found at the Caltrans District 7 Intranet Video Gallery/Quality Awards/Employee of the Year.
In alphabetical order, they are:

Jeanne Bonfilio - 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of External Affairs“In Jeanne’s 20 years with Caltrans, she has organized the grand opening event of the Transportation Management Center, twice!: once in 1998 and again in 2007 for the new facility. Jeanne’s commitment and involvement in public outreach is near and dear to her heart. She takes pleasure in participating with Caltrans partners at the Transportation Information People (TIP) meetings which includes the California Highway Patrol, traffic news reporters and others. Jeanne is someone we have counted on for her dependability and thoroughness. She has taken on many public outreach activities on numerous construction projects. She enjoys working with the public and using her creativity. Many of you remember Worker Memorial Day when it effectively used coveralls to represent each Caltrans worker who lost his/her life in the line of duty. It had an outstanding visual impact – Jeanne was behind that concept. She represents the department in a good light in all that she says and does. Jeanne has done an excellent job and her expertise is an asset. Today, her co-workers recognize her efforts.” - Deborah Robertson, Deputy Director, External Affairs

Vivian Collins, 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Administration
 “Vivian works with the Office of Budgets and is a good steward of our district’s resources. Her attitude is always one of where she will never say “No.” Instead, she says, “Let me do it. If I don’t know the answer I will find out.” Her co-workers describe her as professional, honest, modest, humble and a wonderful human being. She keeps us all on target, and is truly efficient.” - Susan Harris, for Acting Deputy Director, Carol Pennington, Administration

Bernadette Cotton - 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Right of Way“Bernadette has been with the Department for over 29 years, and whichever function she has been assigned to you can be sure her work is always exemplary with little supervision. You give Bernadette a job and it’s done; you don’t have to worry about a thing. The division depends on Bernie’s critical analytical skills and knowledge of titles and escrow matters to ensure that all property parcels are acceptable to the State before she forwards them to escrow. Through her personal dedication, she shows that one person can make a difference by just doing their job and finding ways to make it better and better everyday. She makes herself available to all new staff and they admire her. She is not only an asset, she is an unsung hero in Right of Way. It is well past time that Bernadette has been recognized as a valuable employee and ongoing contribution to the department.” - Dan Dunn, for Andrew Nierenberg, Deputy Director, Right of Way

Wahib Jreig - 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Operations 
“Wahib joined the Ramp Metering unit in 2000 and is now one of the go-to guys in our department. As a lead engineer, he is an integral part of the program overseeing over 1,000 ramp meters in our system, as ramp metering is becoming a more preeminent component. He is extremely creative and innovative. Wahib has dedicated himself to the I-210 Congestion Relief Project which has been nominated as a finalist for an Intelligent Transportation System award. He works closely with our local vendors and stakeholders, and he handles himself and communicates very well at public forums and meetings to talk about the ramp metering program. He works on the state-wide ramp metering team and is recognized for his contributions towards directing this program. Today, his co-workers have recognized his dedication and innovation.” - Marco Ruano, Chief, Freeway Operations, representing Frank Quon, Deputy Director, Operations.

Kaz Kayoda - 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Design
 “Year after year, Kaz is a high performer and highly involved in controversial projects. He always gets problems resolved. For Kaz to receive this award this year is exciting because his peers have noticed his contributions as well. He has high standards, a high quality work ethic and a high commitment to team work and delivery. His biggest asset is that he makes everyone around him better. He always goes out of his way and makes sacrifices to help others get their work done. He is always willing to lend a hand, to explain, to train and to make people better. He is a quality person with a high quality personality.” - Bill Reagan, Deputy Director, Design.

Arnold Parmar - 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Planning and Public Transportation and Local Assistance
 “Arnold is a role model and a true professional. He exemplifies true commitment, flexibility and dependability, not to mention his worker-bee and humble attitude. Arnold always goes above and beyond the call of duty and exhibits superior performance quality in completing assignments regardless of its complexity. He always possesses a positive and energetic attitude and creates a pleasant work atmosphere. Not only is he an outstanding team player, but also shows leadership skills that keep the team focused to ensure effective and efficient project delivery. He is an exemplary public employee and brings praise from both internal and external stakeholders. He is a great asset to the department.” - James McCarthy, Deputy Director, Planning and Public Transportation and Local Assistance.

Alex Perez - 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Construction
 “I’ve known Alex for many years. Alex works with our resident engineers and our contractors on Quality Control, Quality Assurance (QC/QA) for paving materials. I’ve seen him in formal partnering sessions and in the beginning of many projects issue resolution meetings with the contractors. He brings wonderful attitude and humor to the workplace and helps lighten the mood of everyone, no matter how serious the occasion. He is friendly, helpful, very pleasant to work with and to talk to. He is always willing to assist anyone with a helpful hand. His response in the field has helped the department and state save millions of dollars. He is a volunteer instructor on the topic of QC/QA statewide and he is just an awesome person to work with and to know.” - Scott McKenzie for Peter Chan, Deputy Director, Construction

Robert Phan- 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Program and Project Management (PPM)
 “Robert is a great asset to our division. He is willing to accept any assignment, no matter how difficult. He is always cheerful and demonstrates a very positive attitude in everything he does. PPM relies heavily on our database to manage projects. Robert maintains our database and produces the horizon reports and allocation reports. One characteristic that we all admire about Robert is that in every assignment he gives his best -- day in and day out. He takes a difficult assignment and always comes through. He is by the book; he exemplifies the best in PPM.” -Tad Teferi, Deputy Director, Program and Project Management

Juventino (Vino) Rosas- 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Maintenance
 “In Maintenance, one of the traits our staff values is a strong commitment to safety. Juventino Rosas, or Vino, as he is known to his co-workers, is knowledgeable and productive, and possesses this commitment. He exemplifies the things that are valued by the bridge crew. Vino became the lead worker this year of the North Region Bridge Crew. His knowledge of bridge repair is appreciated by all on his crew and by the many Maintenance road crews that he has also worked with prior to being promoted to Equipment Operator II. He worked on the I-5 Tunnel Fire and the Chino Earthquake, always showing his commitment to bridge repairs and safety, not only to himself, but to fellow crew members. Vino’s attributes run long, but one thing is certain: he is a dedicated Caltrans employee and he is going to be ‘the tops’ for many years to come.” - Dan Freeman, Deputy Director, Maintenance

Liz Suh - 2008 Employee of the Year, Division of Environmental Planning
“Today we celebrate the very excellent work of Liz Suh. Her job is to take all the information from the technical specialists, biologists, archeologists, engineers and designers, simplify it and package it in a document to explain the benefits of the project and what Caltrans is trying to accomplish for the people of California. This communication skill is really very difficult but Liz extends a terrific work effort in everything she does. She is proactive and interactive with others in her unit, in the division, the public and with other agencies such as the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, elected officials and their field representatives. She has worked on many highly visible documents including the I-405 HOV environmental impact report that involved hundreds of people. Compliments about her have come back to me on what a terrific job she does for Caltrans and for the public. She is inspirational to her co-workers and to me.” - Ron Kosinski, Deputy Director, Environmental Planning