Published date: October 6, 2023

The 2023 Excellence Awards

On Thursday, October 5th, 2023 the American Public Works Association – WA Chapter, recognized three groups and six individuals at their annual Night of Excellence Awards held this year at the Wenatchee Convention Center. The event recognizes how the state’s most accomplished Public Works professionals have contributed to the field, to the Chapter and to our community’s health. The Awards Ceremony was presented as part of the WA Chapter’s Fall Conference.

View photos of the winners:

Group Awards

The Empowering Teams Award

recognizes public works teams who are making exceptional advancements to improve Public Works’ services.  This award goes to…

Jennifer Walker

Since accepting the role of Director of Thurston County Public Works in 2017, Jennifer Walker’s a commitment to operational efficiency has resulted in significant advancements and benefits to Thurston County.

Jennifer has successfully implemented innovative process improvements, including refining project phase definitions for the Capital Improvement Program, optimizing capital project delivery, and creating an efficient onboarding process for new hires. Furthermore, she established a dedicated team for developing employee performance evaluations, setting high standards of professionalism and accountability.

Her unique strategy of designating a champion for each initiative and providing them with robust support and empowerment has resulted in great successes for Thurston County. Her relentless pursuit of excellence has established Thurston County Public Works as a standout organization in Washington.

Jennifer Walker’s impactful contributions to Thurston County and the Public Works industry at large make her a deserving candidate for the “Empowering Teams Award.” Her transformative leadership is genuinely remarkable.


The Committee in Action Award

recognizes a committee that provides exceptional value to our membership and the public works profession.

This year’s award goes to…

Exhibitors Committee, Chair: Grace Richardson of DEA

Our two annual conferences are vital to the social and financial health of our Chapter and one of the keys to our success is our engaging, interactive, and relevant exhibitor halls.

The Conference Exhibitor Committee, chaired by Grace Richardson, works in coordination with the Conference chairs and our event consultant MeetingVisions, to oversee each step of the exhibitor process. From planning the exhibitor booth layout to ensuring the exhibitors have what they need after set-up, the Committee works hard to create an effective exhibitor space.

To create more interaction between exhibitors and conference attendees, Grace implemented a booth competition, which allows the exhibitors to show off their creativity and increase booth traffic. An anonymous panel of judges visits the booths and votes on Best Give-Away, Most Creative, and Most Interactive. The winning exhibitors receive $100 off future exhibit space.

During the conference, Grace and the Committee get their daily steps in by checking in with the exhibitors, thanking them for participating and asking for feedback. Exhibitors are excited about our conferences and high number immediately sign up for sponsorship opportunities after being exhibitors. We give enormous thanks and recognition to Grace Richardson and our Exhibitors Committee.


The Chapter Heroes Award

recognizes outstanding service to the community by our front line workers.

City of Ellensburg Water Department

In the late fall of 2022, the City of Ellensburg responded to a call of a leak on the 24-inch transmission main that serves the City’s potable water system. The six and a half mile main was installed in 1947 and during the repair efforts it became obvious that the larger valves would not close completely and the main could not be drained low enough to perform a permanent repair. Crews made a temporary repair and scheduled the 24-inch valve to be replaced on November 29th and the two 18-inch valves for November 30th, with the help of a local contractor, Belsaas and Smith.

Removal of the old gate valves was extremely difficult, took longer than expected, and was complicated by unexpected snowstorm. As City crews and the contractor worked to remove the existing 24-inch gate valve, they were alerted to a surfacing water main break in an alley that was threatening to flood a nearby residence. Additional staff were called in to assist, but the alley was completely frozen, further complicating repairs. The City and contractor crews worked long into the night to complete the valve replacement and main break repair simultaneously and restore water service to customers.

On November 30th, City and contractor crews worked together again to complete the removal and replacement of the two18-inch gate valves on the transmission main, once again completing this task under extremely cold and wet conditions. This was another very long workday filled with challenges, but the project was completed successfully, and water service was restored late that evening. City staff are extremely appreciative of Water Division personnel and Belsaas and Smith for their efforts in dealing with all the challenges that were faced during this emergency project. The City of Ellensburg is now better prepared to react to emergencies related to that transmission line because of their hard work and perseverance on the two very cold November nights.

Individual  Awards

The Outstanding Service Award

In Honor of James Robertson

recognizes outstanding service to the Chapter.

Named in honor of the original petitioner to establish our chapter, the award was first instituted in 1962 on Public Works Day at the Seattle World’s Fair. This year’s award in honor of James goes to…

Donald Huling

Donald Huling has provided outstanding service to our Chapter for many years.   After serving on several committees and the Board, Donald was looking forward to a rocking Presidency and then came COVID.  While Donald may have wanted anything but a second term, when called upon, he stepped forward and accepted a second COVID induced year of headaches, planning, re-planning, and being the cheerleader-in-chief of the organization. He worked tirelessly to keep the fun going for the Chapter and his generous spirit helped the board and chapter keep moving forward.

Specifically Donald:

  • worked on contingency budget planning during COVID, redoing the models many times with then Treasurer, Tara Olsen
  • led the first ever online conferences and championed online workshops
  • worked tirelessly to keep the fun in online gatherings by learning AV equipment to create his own videos
  • led efforts to create evolving standards for meeting in person
  • brought the in-person conferences back with an unforgettable rock star kick-off

Donald continues to serve in his role as our Chapter’s Alternate Delegate on the national stage with APWA National.  We appreciate his spirit and thank him for his service.


The Inclusion Advocate Award

In Honor of June Rosentreter Spence

recognizes efforts to recruit individuals into Public Works and are active in helping women, minorities and people with disabilities, pursue careers in the public works field.

June Rosentreter-Spence was a trailblazer.  She was the first women recipient of the James Roberston Award in 1978,  the first Woman Chapter President in 1982,  and the first Woman President of APWA National in 1987.  

This year’s Award in honor of June goes to…

Justin Matthews

Justin Matthews is an invaluable asset to the WA Chapter of APWA for his tireless efforts with the scholarship committee and student outreach. Justin has chaired the scholarship committee since 2016 and now serves as the co-chair for the combined Student Outreach and Scholarship Committee. Justin was integral in working with the conference committee to extend more of the golf tournament earnings to the scholarship fund. And in 2018, Justin advocated to change our scholarship to include both a University scholarship as well as a new Community College scholarship, developing a more inclusive program to benefit all future public work professionals.  In addition to Justin’s role as the co-chair, he has also served as the liaison to the UW APWA Student Chapter for the last two years. His approachable leadership style and humble mentoring encourages students to learn more about public works and APWA.  We thank Justin for his efforts and service.


The Chapter Pillar Award

In Honor of Richard (Dick) G. Andrews

recognizes individuals who exemplify leadership, mentoring, and serving behind the scenes without seeking recognition. 

Dick Andrews was a long time Washington State Chapter member, Board Member, and 2002 President.  This year’s winner is…

Patrick Zellner

Working with the ROADeo Committee since its inception in 2003, Patrick Zellner has dedicated a decade to creating space for Operations and Maintenance workers in APWA.  After COVID, Patrick leapt into action as soon as he was able to identify the potential for the next competition. He assembled the existing and new committee members through virtual and in-person meetings to begin the work of rebooting the ROADEO event. Patrick’s enthusiasm kept the committee energized and pushed members to ensure the next ROADEO event was better than the last. That work culminated in the fall of 2022 with the APWA WA Fall Conference’s successful ROADEO competition.

This year, Patrick also brainstormed an idea of presenting a ROADEO 101 educational session at the spring APWA conference. The session is intended reinforce the value for public works operations staff to attend an APWA conference and entice more ROADEO competitors and gain new O&M Committee members.  Outside APWA Patrick has participated in the City of Renton’s Public Works Storybook Hour, reading a Public Works picture book to youngsters and answering questions at the Renton Library. Patrick’s passion for Public Works and ability to share that passion with others makes him one of Our Heroes Who Wear Dirt.


The Young Leader Award

recognizes and encourages young professionals who demonstrate a commitment to public works and show potential for leadership within APWA. This year’s winner is…

Chelsea Morrison

Transportation Engineer, Chelsea Morrison is an outstanding professional, mentor, and colleague to those on her team at Kimley-Horn and within APWA.

At Kimley-Horn, Chelsea is a project manager on projects for SDOT and Lummi Tribe. She leads a team of professionals and serves as a technical expert on diverse projects ranging from transit and BRT, environmentally sensitive roadway widening, and corridor projects. Her commitment to partnering with Kimley-Horn clients to find the best ways to serve them is not only beneficial for our clients, but allows our young professionals to be set up for success.

She is currently serving on the APWA Mentorship Committee and has supported Alyssa Ardourel and Caroline Barlow in championing the Mentorship initiative.  Chelsea continuously encourages young professionals to attend APWA and other professional organizational events to gain outside networking experience.

We are grateful for Cheslea’s leadership and honor her as a Young Leader.


President’s Award

The President’s Award recognizes a current Officer or Board Member for Chapter contributions to the APWA.

Toby Rickman, Retired (Pierce County)

Toby Rickman has been an invaluable member of the Washington State public works community for nearly 40 years.  His notable legacies to Public Works are: Collaborating on WSDOT’s “Target Zero” for traffic deaths in 2000, which is still the state’s goal and has gone on to become a national standard. At Pierce County, he co-created the 8 Elements of Asset Management program that reduced costs for operations and management across the Pierce County and was selected to lead the National APWA Asset Management Task Force to create guidance and tools for APWA members across the country.


The Roy Morse Award

In Honor of Roy W. Morse

is our Chapters most prestigious award. It recognizes outstanding technical or professional accomplishments in Public Works. Roy Morse was one of the first Presidents of the Washington State Chapter as well as a former National President. He served as a role model for an entire generation of public works engineers and administrators. This year’s winner is…

Peter DeBoldt

Many of Peter’s accomplishments can be seen through his commitment and work with APWA. Peter has served multiple roles over the years from his membership in the Government Affairs Committee, as Chair the APWA Transportation Committee (2006-2009), and as APWA Board of Directors (2010-2011) and as a chapter delegate to National since 2015.  In addition to attending Council of Chapter meetings and events, Peter is an advisor to the national board, supports the APWA strategic plan, and helps disseminate the development of best practices to the local chapter.

Peter was also a critical part of the early efforts to bring PWX to Seattle in 2019 and helped in negotiating the memorandum of agreement (MOA) to secure the date. He also helped raise funds, volunteered as management co-chair and was an essential part of the planning committee. He worked tirelessly for nearly two years to make sure APWA’s national conference in Seattle was a success.

Outside of APWA, Peter’s commitment to our local community is unmatched. Peter is a recognized as a regional expert in value engineering studies and his ability to identify high-risk and high-cost areas of a project and identify alternative solutions that will cost-effectively meet a project’s goals have saved local agencies millions of dollars over the years.  From his work as a project manager on projects such as the East-West High-Capacity Transit Study, and the South Renton light rail transit (LRT) Station Siting Study, to his mentorship of students, staff, and DBE associates (Disadvantaged Business Entities), Peter continually strives to better the world around him and we are proud to honor him with the Roy Morse Award.



Back to top