California State Parks

Congratulations to the Recipients of the 2015-2016 California State Parks Director’s Awards


Congratulations to the recipients of the 2015-2016 Director’s Awards! Awardees were honored for their outstanding achievements, heroism, selflessness and personal dedication on January 18, 2018 during a ceremony at the California State Railroad Museum.

Chief Deputy Director Liz McGuirk served as the emcee of the event to a fully packed auditorium and spoke about how the ceremony was a wonderful reminder of why we all work in public service. She told the winners that they are an inspiration to us all and acknowledged how almost every award winner that spoke thanked their family, their friends and their colleagues for their support.

Chief Deputy Director Liz McGuirk

Director Lisa Mangat also thanked all the awardees and staff for the outstanding work they do every day. She said she was proud to be in a department where leaders are made and where a good idea can touch the lives of millions of Californians and people around the world.

Director Lisa Mangat

Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird could not attend the ceremony, but provided a video message, thanking the awardees for their truly impressive work.

A special thanks to Save the Redwoods League who provided the cost of the awards and who are also celebrating their centennial this year. Over the last century, their work has protected more than 200,000 acres of redwood forests and helped to establish 66 redwood parks and reserves. Most importantly, they have touched the lives of millions of people by connecting them to these towering wonders of nature with programs such as Redwoods Friday.

Members of the executive team and high-level managers presented the six categories for the Annual Recognition Awards for the years 2015 and 2016, which were handed out along with five Special Commendation Awards and seven Special Act or Service Awards. For the first time ever, a Civilian Award was awarded.

Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-30th District) was in attendance to present the Civilian Award to Bret Engel, who risked his own life last October to rescue one of our own. Maintenance Supervisor Robin McManaman was involved in a three-vehicle crash involving a burglary suspect and when his vehicle caught on fire, Engel rushed to pull him out of the burning truck. Engel received a standing ovation from the entire auditorium and during his acceptance speech, he thanked the heroic men and women.

“Whether that’s a California lifeguard, a California State Park Ranger, a CHP, EMT…everyone that was there at the accident. You guys are truly heroes,” said Engel.

This was just one of many emotional moments during the awards ceremony. We heard from a number of recipients who were honored for their heroic acts. They included peace officers, lifeguards, even those not trained as lifeguards, and the Northern Buttes District for their heroic actions to keep communities safe during last February’s Oroville Spillway incident. There was an especially heartfelt moment when Allan, the brother of the late Steve Bier, a well-known and well-loved peace officer in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, spoke about how much he missed his brother and thanked State Parks for keeping his memory alive.

It wasn’t just life-saving heroic acts that were recognized. There were Parks employees who created special programs that saved our department thousands of dollars and hours, employees who helped preserved our natural, cultural and historic resources, employees who created a better experience for park visitors, among other commendable acts.

Congratulations again to all the recipients! We thank you for making State Parks one of the best places to work. This isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle.

2015-2016 Director’s Awards Recipients


 John B. Dewitt Award

Recognizes partners who have demonstrated a high level of commitment over a substantial period of time towards accomplishing our mission.

John B. Dewitt Award (2015): Brad Krey on behalf of Dr. John Ittelson – PORTS Program
John B. Dewitt Award (2016): Tamalpais Lands Collaborative

Newton B. Drury Award

Recognizes our employees who demonstrate a high degree of honesty, integrity and idealism in the face of adverse pressure.

Newton B. Drury Award (2016): Peggy Ronning – Tehachapi District

Andrew P. Hill Award

Recognizes those who have achieved a major public objective while emphasizing community involvement.

Andrew P. Hill Award (2016): Cara O’Brien – San Luis Obispo Coast District

Ingenuity Award

Recognizes craftsmanship and expert application of hands on technique.

Ingenuity Award (2015): Jordan Burgess, Jim Heggli, Crystal Flores and Chris Zulaica – Administrative Services
Ingenuity Award (2016): Wilson Chan – Accounting Services Section

William Penn Mott, Jr. Award

Recognizes those who find new and exciting ways to respond to change and accomplish our mission.

William Penn Mott, Jr. Award (2015): Alex Tabone, Haidee Andersen and Dave Johnson – Santa Cruz District and Friends of Santa Cruz Parks
William Penn Mott, Jr. Award (2016): Chris Glenn – North Coast Redwoods District

Frederick Law Olmsted Award

Recognizes staff with the ability to motivate and inspire others to positive action who have long-term commitment to the ideals and values of our department.

Frederick Law Olmsted Award (2015): Interpretive Services Team – Monterey District Lisa Bradford, Daniel Williford, Sara Arnett, Marcos Vizcaino, Michael Green, Maria Avelino, Rae Schwaderer, Kris Quist, Melissa Gobell and Patricia Clark-Gray
Frederick Law Olmsted Award (2016): Robin Connors – Colorado Desert District

Special Commendation Awards

Recognizes employees who have made a significant contribution by going above and beyond the norm and made a substantial impact.  

Special Commendation Award: Francis Del Valle – Budget Section
Special Commendation Award: Marshall Markham and Laura Van Etten-Collins – Training Section
Special Commendation Award: Alvin Velasquez, Candelario Reyes, Leo Yanez and Chris Fridrich – Monterey District


Special Commendation Award: Northern Buttes District (Response to Lake Oroville Spillway Incident) – Eddie Guaracha; Aaron Wright; Evan Walter; Travis Gee; Kirk Coon; Chris Beehner; Zach Hawkins; Mark Hofer; Daniel Marinella; Bryan Taylor; Michael Van Pelt; Mathew Stalter; Zach Chamers; Emily Koskondy; Robert Tuck; Eric Braga; Lucas Biggers; Robert Lee; Charles Massetti; Dennis Dommer; Chris Hobbs; Lance Weir; Kao Chue; Joseph Bourget; Cole Frerks; Michael Davis; David Edmonds; Clinton McCready; Frank Hicks; April Marson; Sabrina Buis; Megan Sanchez; Matt Teague; Todd Jones; Cheyenne Clayton; Shawnee Rose; Ron Yocum; Kevin Mathews; and Kenneth Shier. Please Note: Not all recipients who received this award were able to attend the ceremony. 


Special Act or Service Awards

Recognizes employees who have performed an extraordinary act of heroism extending far above the normal call of duty or service.

Special Act or Service Award: Scott Huckabey – Orange Coast Distric
Special Act or Service Award: Jed Reghanti, Jesse Norton and Justin Jimenez (not pictured) – Inland Empire District
Special Act or Service Award: Adam Borello and Jason Fincher – Ocotillo Wells District
Special Act or Service Award: Mike Dippel, Sasha Wessitch, Callan McLaughlin, Andrew Ahlberg and Steve Bier (posthumous; Allan Bier accepting) – Oceano Dunes, Gold Fields, Ocotillo Wells and Colorado Desert Districts and Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recrea
Special Act or Service Award: Brett Reid – Santa Cruz District
Special Act or Service Award: Scott Jin Kwon – Sonoma-Mendocino Coast District
Special Act or Service Award: Aaron Pendergraft – Sonoma-Mendocino Coast District

Civilian Award

Receiving a special award for their act of heroism as a civilian when they risked their own life to rescue one of our own family members.

Civilian Award: Bret Engel