2021 Moving Forward Award – Sonja Stanchina

CALPELRA’s Moving Forward Award recognizes innovative leadership in California public sector labor and employee relations and celebrates those who have been models and mentors and have improved labor and employee relations in their organizations and/or by assisting others with growth in the profession. The recipient of CALPELRA’s 2021 Moving Forward Award, Sonja StanchinaDirector of Diversity & Inclusion for Contra Costa Water District, exemplifies this leadership.  

CALPELRA’s 2022 Annual Training Conference will be held the week of November 14 – 18, 2022. In January 2022, CALPELRA will issue a call for speaking proposals for the 2022 Conference. We’ll be opening on-line Conference registration in the spring of 2022.  You’ll find dates of all the future CALPELRA Annual Conferences, through 2030, here.

Sonja Stanchina has provided exceptional leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion at the Contra Costa Water District, as the District’s first ever Director of Diversity & Inclusion, and in her earlier roles with the District. In 2017, Sonja was promoted to the District’s Human Resources & Risk Manager. As the District’s first ever Black manager in the CCWD’s then 81-year history, Sonja’s work with over 20 other District managers was challenging and after a year of observing and experiencing micro-aggressions and micro-insults, Sonja raised concerns and complaints through the District’s chain of command. In 2020, the District’s new General Manager asked Sonja to create and lead a new department of diversity and inclusion.

As Director of the Department of Diversity & Inclusion, Sonja, with the help of her team, has begun leading real change in an organization that historically did not reflect the racial diversity of the community in which it is located. Her efforts over the last year have already produced measurable progress, reversing a declining trend in District employment of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Sonja’s innovative leadership, including a focus on making change through employee-led efforts, has brought 10% of the CCWD’s workforce into active engagement in D&I through diverse advisory groups. These diversity ambassadors have enabled notable improvements in the work environment for all. Sonja developed a five-year strategic D&I Master Plan with statements of support from representatives of the District’s labor units for this roadmap for the future. She drafted a Standard Operating Procedure to embed D&I best practices in recruitment and selection procedures. And she has engaged in effective employee communication through a variety of efforts including: monthly D&I Journals; a quarterly publication to cultivate diversity; a digital D&I communication page to share information; employee town hall meetings and listening forums; and one-on-one conversations with employees.

Sonja Stanchina is a shining example of innovative leadership, and CALPELRA is proud of her achievements. She is an inspiration, and we applaud her commitment to working to improve employment practices not only in her own District, but across California.

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