Above & Beyond Awards

2022 Above & Beyond Awards

Above & Beyond Awards During March's National Procurement Month  

The National Cooperative Procurement Partners (NCPP) recognizes stars in public procurement who have gone ABOVE & BEYOND in their procurement role. With all that's happened in the past two years, all heroes in procurement—be it the Director, Buyer I, or Stockroom Clerk—deserve recognition. Award winners will be showcased in the NCPP newsletter and website during the month of March and receive an NCPP "Let's Just Cooperate" t-shirt and other special rewards.

Examples of ABOVE & BEYOND recognition:
  • Special success story in addressing the COVID-19 and social distancing challenges
  • Taking on additional tasks and leadership responsibilities for a special project
  • Volunteering in events or activities to serve their community
  • Serving in the military or guard to help with emergencies
  • Solving a difficult problem with an out-of-the-box solution
  • Serving in unpaid role for a procurement association
  • Sharing knowledge and volunteering for industry training sessions and conferences
  • Leadership and mentoring to create a welcoming team environment that allows individuals to grow and succeed


Sarah Andrews, CPPB, NIGP-CPP

Contract Specialist
Dutchess County, NY

At her time of hire in 2018, Sarah was tasked with establishing a County Wide Procurement Assistance Program for the municipalities of Dutchess County. The purpose of the program is to assist any municipality within the county with their procurement related needs. In 2021, Sarah was selected by the New York State Association of Municipal Purchasing Officials (SAMPO) Board of Directors to be an Assistant Regional Representative for SAMPO. Recently Sarah and a team of other selected SAMPO Regional Representatives established SAMPO’s Emerging Professional Program which aims to shape the future of our industry by supporting the growth of new purchasing professionals employed by public entities of New York State. This program intends to create opportunities for new public procurement professionals to build relationships, expand their skills and advance their careers while continuing to promote ethics of the profession, public trust, and applicable laws and procedures.  

Outside of procurement, Sarah is one of the founding members of the newly formed Dutchess County Diversity and Inclusion committee. The purpose of the committee is to promote and implement diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging within the county’s workforce by suggesting pragmatic resolutions regarding cultural awareness, education/training and understanding as well as all aspects of the recruitment process, policy development, communication and strategic planning shall be recommended for best practices. Since its creation, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee has collaborated with several local groups and organizations to ensure acknowledgement of all cultures both personally and professionally.

Chelsey Axtell

Purchasing Secretary
St. Vrain Valley Schools, CO

Chelsey is the purchasing secretary and staff have nicknamed her the Super Amazing Awesome Chelsey (SAAC) - we use this abbreviation often. Some of her standard secretarial duties to support purchasing: managing warehouse stock orders and inventory; managing vendor setups district-wide for our financial system (applications, W2's, etc.); assisting staff with bid solicitations such as compiling tabulations, etc.; budget tracking; ordering office supplies, etc.; and much, much more! As the purchasing manager, I never have to give her direction. She takes ownership, and on most occasions, has her work completed before even being asked. 

In addition to her normal busy schedule, she has managed all the purchasing and supplies needed to address the pandemic, participated on interview panels to hire new staff members, and volunteered her time and serves as Newsletter Chair of the Rocky Mountain Governmental Chapter of NIGP (RMGPA). On February 14th, 2022, she obtained her NIGP Core Certificate - Foundations of Strategy and Policy. How she does it is an inspiration for all.

Cheryl Bucalo

Grants/Contracts/Procurement Supervisor 
Maricopa County Department of Public Health, AZ

In March 2020 Cheryl began working with an outside IT firm to create an online purchase tracking system within Public Health. The current process consisted of manually inputting information into spreadsheets for tracking purposes and maintaining mass amounts of paper files. Not only was it extremely time consuming, there was a large margin for error. In December 2021, the project began beta testing. This new “Purchase Portal” will eliminate many inefficiencies that exist in the current process as well as reduce the number of audit findings due to missing documentation. Cheryl is also currently working on another project with the county’s Information Technology group to enable the public to search for and access the multitude of COVID solicitations and resulting contracts that she has completed over the past two years.    
In February 2020 Cheryl had to create new standard operating procedures for the displaced workers from other departments that had been temporarily assigned to her unit to assist with the increased workload. Also, the database that housed all the department’s grants, contracts, IGA’s, leases, MOU’s, etc. was migrated to a newly created SharePoint site for the Purchasing and Contracts (PAC) unit. Originally the documents had been maintained as part of a Microsoft Access Database. As a result of this migration the process of creating and maintaining the records was changed requiring a revision to the standard operating procedures that are used today by her staff. Finalized in January 2020, the manual for prospective vendors to register with Periscope S2G, the county’s e-procurement system provider. On top of her other duties, Cheryl agreed to join the committee tasked with testing out new procedures to be used when creating master agreements for procurement contracts.

Toni Cook

Assistant Procurement Manager 
City of Little Rock, AR

Toni began her career with the City of Little Rock in late 2019. Shortly afterward, she was tasked with COVID-19 Supply Management in the midst of the city adapting to working remotely. Our system did not have the functionality with Inventory Management, Distribution, and/or Re-Order Policies, so Toni built an entire system in Smartsheets to manage COVID-19 Inventory and requests from all 14 departments across the City. “Toni also took the lead in resource tracking and ordering for city departments by implementing a Smartsheet database to automate the resource request and approval process. Automation saved the Emergency Management Division both time and resources of manually recording the request” says Nathan Spicer, Emergency Management, City of Little Rock.

Toni also led the City’s “Government Performance Lab” efforts with the Harvard Kennedy School. This work has been integral in the fields of Results-Driven Contracting and “The Behavioral Insights Team” (BIT) through email trials that expand Procurement’s outreach and increase MWBE (Minority Women-Owned Based Enterprise) spend. Toni is a member of the Data Governance committee on behalf of the Finance Department and worked closely with the Performance and Innovation Coordinator who leads the Data efforts for the City of Little Rock. She was a key stakeholder and leader on results-driven contracting, which led to the City’s first “What Works Cities” Certification. The City of Little Rock was the first city in the State of Arkansas and one of 40 cities across the country to Achieve Silver Certification in “What Works Cities” by Bloomberg Philanthropies. At the end of 2020, Toni was promoted to Assistant Procurement Manager and onboarded 80 percent of the new Procurement team.

Elizabeth Dooley, CPPO, CPPB

Lead Buyer
Fairfax Water, VA

Beth currently serves as her agency’s Procurement Program Lead Buyer. Her responsibilities include contracts for Finance/Accounting, Human Resources, and Technology (hardware and software). In addition to her regular duties, she was tasked with setting up her agency’s agreements in its SAP System, overseeing the loading of over 600 contracts. The effort resulted in the ability to run reports and access data on contract dollars, expiration dates, etc. It also permits end users to access contract terms, conditions, and pricing from that platform.  

As a leader in Virginia Association of Governmental Procurement (VAGP), Beth has proven herself as a “mover and shaker.” She sets high expectations for herself and for those serving on the Board and committees. Volunteering in an unpaid role, Beth is serving her fourth year as an Officer on the VAGP Board, currently as the Chapter President. During her year as President-Elect, she spearheaded several initiatives to re-engage VAGP’s various committees after COVID’s impact on Chapter activities. Some of these initiatives included: holding a multi-day strategic planning session in October 2021 for the purpose of charting a forward-thinking future for VAGP. The session resulted in a new vision, mission, and core values for the organization along with clearly identified goals and objectives for VAGP as a whole and for each of the committees. She has systematically revisited every initiative and process and conducted an audit of the membership, saving the organization thousands of annual dollars. The spring conference she is planning has content comparable to much larger organizations as she updated/reorganized the way, VAGP does conferences, based on vendor and member feedback.

Darci Garbacz

Palm Beach County School District, FL

Darci Garbacz worked tirelessly with our suppliers day in and day out, late at night and on weekends, for over two years. Whether securing Merv -13 air filters, air purifiers for the schools, finding hand sanitizer, and facial coverings for students and employees, she did it all. Before the first day of school. she worked with the Facilities Department and developed a system for them to follow to ensure that sneeze guards were in place before the start of school, worked with our suppliers to get Clorox 360 machines and the 360 solutions out to all 174 schools, and orchestrated training for the custodians to ensure they knew how to use the machines safely and effectively. When she discovered during her research that a cleaning agent the District was using took 12 minutes to kill COVID-19 germs she did further research and identified a chemical that would kill COVID-19 in 30 seconds and was chemically safe for our children. Finally, she worked with Directors to develop policies and procedures for protecting students and staff from COVID-19.  
While juggling the many challenges of supply shortages, price increases, sourcing challenges, labor shortages and delayed deliveries, Ms., Garbacz somehow managed to pull off many miracles. The District did not have one late delivery, not one item necessary for Covid-19 protection unavailable for our students and staff, and to ensure students could continue learning from home she managed to purchase 97,858 chrome books before chrome books became unavailable. She crowned her efforts by securing contracts with internet providers to ensure students who did not have access to home internet would not be left behind. Ms. Garbacz had the foresight to develop a process to easily identify any and all Purchase Orders associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This process will allow us to provide information requested by Internal auditors as well as FEMA auditors at a moment's notice. 

Tonya Hodges, NIGP-CPP, CPPB

Senior Buyer
Jordan School District, UT

Tonya deserves one of the 2022 “Above and Beyond Performance” awards because she is one of the hardest working volunteers in the State of Utah. In 2021 she was the Utah Chapter President for NIGP and did an incredible job leading the chapter. It was through her tireless work and effort that the Utah Chapter of NIGP won the 2021 Outstanding Chapter of the Year for Membership and was designated with the Platinum status from NIGP.

Currently, she is serving as Past-President but she is working twice as hard as the project manager for the Utah Chapter of NIGP 2022 Reverse Trade Show. This show is our largest fundraising opportunity all year and everything she does is done with heart and passion. The Utah Chapter would not be able to win these major awards or be able to give out as many scholarships without her hard work and dedication. I think all 260+ members of the Utah Chapter of NIGP would agree with me that Tonya Hodges deserves this award and I am happy to nominate her for consideration.

Kaliska King

State Procurement Analyst
State of Oregon

In addition to her role as Department of Administrative in the Procurement Services office, Kaliska volunteers for the Procurement Liaison position for the State of Oregon’s Emergency Management Support Function 7 (ESF7) Resource Support & Logistics. The ESF7 team has had to respond declared emergencies for the COVID pandemic (on-going), fires, floods, tsunami, drought, and snowstorms. During all of these declared emergency/disasters Ms. King has been on the forefront of providing procurement expertise to County Emergency Managers, Tribal partners, and State Agencies. During the 2021 fires, which devastated metropolitan areas and whole towns, Kaliska provided the emergency services (garbage, security, porta-potties, etc.) needed when disaster shelters pop up all hours of the day/night in multiple counties. To be closer to the front line, she moved and changed duty stations (away from her DAS PS desk) at least seven times. 

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccinations became available and were starting to ship to states. Kaliska uncovered that one of the orders was not going to meet the Saturday timeline for delivery and for two clinics, set to open Sunday, would not receive the 600 syringes they would need. She recruited helpers to start calling all pharmacies and vendors that could provide syringes within a 100-mile radius. Being ever-diligent and persuasive, Kaliska was able to procure a total of 525 syringes, and then went about driving to ultimately deliver those syringes to the requesting County Health Departments by 10 pm that night. Outside of work, Ms. King volunteers for a national dog rescue that rescues beagles from a life of testing in laboratories. Ms. King has even championed and testified in the State legislature about the conditions these dogs live in and are subject to at the laboratories and helped get legislation passed to help them.

Willie Moon

Procurement Agent, Senior 
DeKalb County, GA

In 2020, the pandemic caught us all off guard and then in 2021, the team was hit with a few challenges. In addition to still getting used to working remotely when our organization was heavily paper-based, we had a staff reduction that reduced the team from nine positions down to two and, a month later, the supervisor had to take a leave of absence. For three months, all team matters were being handled by the sole Senior Procurement Agent, Willie Moon. He was acting as team manager; handling his assignments; as well as continuing the procurement process for assignments previously being processed by staff members no longer with the organization. 

"With all the above occurring, Willie supported our team and our department with amazing customer service when two new employees came onboard," his supervisor said. "Willie found the time to provide his procurement knowledge and abilities to prepare these new team members in anticipation of receiving assignments. As his supervisor, I am constantly amazed at Willie’s tenacity, customer service, teamwork and drive to serve the citizens of our county."

He does all of this with a calm demeanor even when faced with the craziest of situations. Others from organizations who had the pleasure of working with Willie often rave about him. 

Jennifer Olzinger, NIGP-CPP, CPPB

Assistant Director-Procurement Manager 
City of Pittsburgh, PA

You would think that managing a team of 8 that handles over 600 procurements a year for a city as large as Pittsburgh, PA would be a full-time job, however, Assistant Director Procurement Manager Jennifer Olzinger does this and much more. Jen has been with the City since 2015 and each year is commemorated for dedication to obtaining goods and services in the most efficient manner and ensures procurement practices are consistent, open, and designed to encourage maximum competition and best value procurements. 

Jen is also an avid learner and strives to improve her industry knowledge as a chairholder to many noteworthy procurement organizations. Jen is currently serving as the first Vice President of the Pennsylvania Public Purchasing Association (PAPPA). Previous to this accolade, she also served as the PAPPA Board Secretary for the 2018-2019 term and Second Vice President for the 2020-2021 term. She is also serving a fourth term on the National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP) Impact Circle. With a can-do attitude, and drive to revamp old processes, Jen is truly a procurement rockstar. She is admired as a “medaled” influencer in the procurement space, and to all who know her, is only just getting started.

Joanna Oukrop, CPPB

Senior Buyer 
City of Roseville, CA

Recently, the City replaced its antiquated ERP system. Joanna was chosen to be on the ERP Project Team due to her extensive knowledge and experience with procurement policies, regulations and processes. As a result of Joanna's efforts and dedication, the ERP implementation for the Procurement module was a success as she innovated the bid process for the City by launching our electronic bid capabilities, worked with the Clerk’s office and Attorney’s office to create a more user-friendly process that is beneficial for our purchasing team, end using departments and suppliers, to support a full-service City with a population of almost 150,000 residents. She was an integral part of the development team collaborating with IT and the Attorney’s Office, transitioning the City to Digital Signatures for contracts, and instrumental in the development of Office Depot’s Punch Out system, enabling users to order directly through our software. She continuously worked towards making process improvements through research and development, analysis, and testing within our process management software, helping to serve approximately 1000 employees in 15 different departments. 

Joanna leads multi-departmental trainings offering customer-specific support and updates during annual contract renewal periods. In addition to the accomplishments above, she has the innate ability to simplify complicated scenarios in a calm and patient manner, which helps to alleviate frustration and reassure customers their needs will be taken care of. Her professionalism and knowledge is constantly recognized and appreciated amongst her peers throughout the City.

Ashley Provenza, CPPB

Purchasing Unit Supervisor
Polk County Sheriff’s Office, FL

In 2021, Polk County felt the effects of the worst pandemic in recent history - COVID-19. Acting with a heightened sense of urgency, Ashley worked diligently to locate alternative vendors to ensure agency members had the supplies and equipment needed. As a result of her actions, our members always had adequate goods and equipment for our internal and external customers. She also strived to ensure we received the best pricing. For example, when one vendor wanted to raise pricing for personal care kits by 23%, she used her knowledge, training, experience, and ability to negotiate, resulting in an increase of only 11%. Another example of her “take-charge, can-do” attitude and ability to negotiate is when the agency decided it was time to sell an aging helicopter with increasing maintenance costs. She located an organization that had experience selling helicopters. When the selected vendor wanted a 12% commission, which was to be paid by the purchaser, her negotiations resulted in the vendor agreeing to a 5% commission. Thirty days after being advertised, the helicopter was sold for one million dollars. 

While the agency was facing challenges, as a result of several recent retirements, her team was suddenly staffed with inexperienced purchasing agents. Under her leadership, these new purchasing agents are thriving, overcoming obstacles, and attaining the self-confidence needed to be successful. Her team saved the agency $2,540,605.00, during the fiscal year 2021 through negotiating, competitive pricing, and establishing new contracts. In addition, she has encouraged them to complete classes so that they can earn the highly coveted certifications from UPPC. Every organization needs some way to judge its performance, and it is individuals like her that set the standard. While the aforementioned are not all-inclusive of the initiatives she has spearheaded, they showcase her leadership qualities, cost-saving abilities, and set the example that others want to emulate.

Myrna Quihuis, CPPB

Procurement Officer 
Town of Queen Creek, AZ

In 2019, the Town of Queen Creek, Arizona started the research of creating their own Police Department. To take on an effort of this magnitude during COVID with its supply chain issues came with its own challenges. Over the last two years, Myrna has researched, purchased, contracted and approved purchase orders for everything a new department needs. From common items like guns and ammunition, vehicles, and uniforms to the obscure traffic cones for the Officers' cars or the “Town Vendor” stickers on the contracted towing companies' tow trucks. She also assisted and coordinated legal services and IGAs for dispatch services and consultants for lie detector tests, psychological tests and physicals. Myrna has worked tirelessly with all departments to ensure that procurements were approved on time and services and products were received when needed. 

Myrna functioned as the Procurement expert but also became a Public Safety procurement expert, teacher and mentor. She explained the Town’s procurement policy to the Police Chief, Lieutenants, Sergeants and Administrative staff. Right to the last minute before our "go live," Myrna was coordinating delivery and finding other alternative products for needed items due to shipments being on backorder. With Myrna’s dedication, hard work, knowledge and willingness to always do what is needed, the Police Department has the needed resources to do their job and, as of January 11, 2022, the Town of Queen Creek has their own Police force.

Kelly Regan

Unified Government of Wyandotte County, KS

I will fully admit that I will not be able to sell Kelly, or use fancy procurement terminology, as well as he deserves. As a veteran in the Fire Department, Kelly has always been there for us. Because of his background, he understands our 24-hour a day, 365-day a year operations, with 470 employees, 18 stations and nearly 100 vehicles and apparatuses. We are responsible for maintaining our own stations, vehicles, apparatuses, equipment and occupy a great portion of Kelly’s time, although we are not his only assigned department. During the month of December when the rest of the world is taking off for the holidays, Kelly remains committed to our mission and never takes additional time off. 
Under normal circumstances Kelly has an extremely busy work life, and he been able to manage everything as we have navigated through the pandemic. Despite remote working, alternating shifts, supply chain challenges and federal funds, Kelly has truly remained professional and kept up with the increasing demand. We get a lot of credit for our services, but the truth is that Kelly is the one that keeps the wheels on the fire trucks rolling out of the stations…literally.

Namita Uppal

Chief Procurement Officer 
Miami Dade County, FL

Namita Uppal holds the dual positions of Assistant Director of Internal services Department and the Chief Procurement Officer, and manages four Division Directors; a Chief Negotiator; nine Managers, and approximately 100 procurement professionals in the Strategic Procurement Division. Under Namita’s leadership, last year the division awarded contracts valued at approximately $1,030,000,000 for various goods and services, and Architectural and Engineering and Design-Build contracts valued at approximately $627,000,000. Notably, the Beach Corridor Trunk Line project is the first solicitation of its kind to be conducted in Miami-Dade County, and one of the first in the Country to utilize a P3 pre-development agreement model in which a two-step agreement and negotiation is utilized. 

In June 2021, the Chaplain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium in the Miami suburb of Surfside, partially collapsed. Ms. Uppal mobilized a procurement response team to procure heavy equipment rental services and laborers to search for survivors, hauling of the debris to a separate location while maintaining any evidence recovered for investigatory purposes, to negotiating agreements for forensic engineers and medical equipment to identify the deceased. Ms. Uppal regularly interfaced with senior leadership from FDEM, FDOT, FEMA, Governor’s Office, and the Office of the President of the United States. Under Ms. Uppal’s direction, approximately $34M in contracts were awarded for this emergency and all contracts are expected to be fully or partially reimbursed by FEMA. Ms. Uppal’s leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of remarkable. From coordinating purchases of PPE for first responders, sourcing of hard-to-find hand sanitizer, and negotiating of vaccine and testing agreements across the County, Ms. Uppal led the charge to protect Miami-Dade County constituents from the unknown, in addition to staffing the Emergency Operation Center for COVID-19 related tasks.