The CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence is a peer-nominated award that shines a light on the outstanding contributions of California's public-sector workforce, whether a public agency, program, or employee. These are the people and organizations behind the scenes who often go unnoticed, as they work diligently to provide the essential services we rely on in our everyday lives.

We're Proud to Announce the 2021 Recipient

The 2021 Spotlight on Excellence recipient, announced on Tuesday, October 19, at the CalPERS Educational Forum Online, is Monica Espinoza, Human Resources Director for the City of Orange. Ms. Espinoza places a high value on giving back and serving others. In her 24 years of service to the city, she’s worked her way up from an intern to executive leadership. She's well known for doing everything she can to support her team, the organization, and city residents.

Labor relations have never been better thanks to Ms. Espinoza's efforts. The positive relationships she’s fostered over the years have resulted in eight successful long-term contracts with labor partners and skyrocketing morale.

Ms. Espinoza is praised by her co-workers as showing integrity in everything she does, while always having the employees' best interests at heart. She's an advocate and supporter of employees, who never forgets her commitment to Orange residents as a public servant.

Congratulations to Ms. Espinoza and the City of Orange.

See the Extraordinary Work of Our Honorees

Past Award Recipients


Trieste Huey, Director, Food Services
Fontana Unified School District
Recognized for leading her team quickly into action when the Fontana Unified School District announced on March 13, 2020 it would be temporarily closing schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic. With all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, FUSD’s Food Services team made certain students and their families, some of whom rely on the district for their only meals, got the food they needed when it mattered the most.


Michelle Tucker, Chief, Division of Human Resources
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
Recognized for launching several successful initiatives to advance women and minorities, shaping future generations of employees to work in the transportation industry. Under her leadership, the Recruitment Office collaborated with special groups such as Downtown Streets, Goodwill Industries, Prison to Employment, and refugee groups that onboard employees who have had trouble entering or re-entering the workforce.


Manuel Colunga, Outdoor Field Supervisor
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District
Recognized as a dedicated steward of over 44 miles of water canals and recharge basins throughout the San Bernardino County region, Manuel's passion for groundwater management knows no bounds. He led a partnership with 12 neighboring agencies to raise awareness and further enhance water recharge efforts in neighboring communities.


Jeanne Amos, Library Services Director
El Dorado County
Recognized for 22 years of dedicated public service, Jeanne transformed El Dorado County libraries into the community hubs she envisioned. Programs she developed helped El Dorado County receive recognition from our State Legislature for its early learning education, and for having the highest percentage in the state of reading to young children each day.


Kenneth Duran, Assistant City Manager
City of San Dimas
Recognized for his accomplishments during more than 30 years as assistant city manager, including the city hall remodel and downtown revitalization.


East Valley Water District
Recognized for their commitment to leadership, partnership, and stewardship, and understanding the need to educate the community on the efforts involved in maintaining a water system.


Howard L. Chambers, City Manager
City of Lakewood
Recognized for his accomplishments during his 38 years as city manager, and his ability to build working relationships with city staff, civic leaders, and state legislators.

CalPERS Educational Forum

  • Spotlight on Excellence Award