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Santa Monica Launches the Elaine Award to Recognize Employees

September 8, 2017 5:01 PM
by Rick Cole

Santa Monica Launches the Elaine Award to Recognize Employees

Santa Monica Launches "The Elaine" Award to Recognize Employees  

By Rick Cole 

Former Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek set a superb standard for public leadership, honesty, courage and dedication to serving others. An avid sports fan, she kept in her office at City Hall a collection of bobblehead figures of Dodger and Kings players she and her husband had collected over the years. So when it came time to honor her three decades of service to Santa Monica, we had our own “Elaine” bobblehead created with Elaine dressed as “Superwoman” in front of the Pier Ferris Wheel. We ordered two – one to give her at her last City Council meeting – and another to launch a new tradition. I felt the best way to honor her example was to recognize other City staff who follow in her footsteps of going the extra mile to serve our community.   

So each week, I personally deliver the Elaine” award to those who exemplify our commitment to excellent service. We know residents don’t often personally have the opportunity to meet many of the faces behind the services this City delivers, so we’ll share a roundup of the "Elaine" recipients each month. We hope you enjoy getting to know more of the people who contribute to making Santa Monica a city that works for everyone. Below is a look at who has received the award since it launched in early July. 

Jing Yeo, Planning Manager and Peter James, Principal Planner 

Planning and Community Development 

The first “Elaine” went to Jing and Peter for their leadership on the Downtown Community Plan (DCP). After six years of intense work, Santa Monica’s Downtown now has a vision for the next 15 to 20 years. Thank you to Peter and Jing for your intense commitment to the community listening and engagement process! The team is now working to implement the comprehensive program adopted by the Council.  

Paul Davis, Beach Maintenance Supervisor  

Public Landscape 

Sometimes, it can be hard for things to get done that might call on us to go the extra mile — or in Paul's case, go fix a problem outside of Santa Monica. This Breeze Bike was taken out of the service area and tossed into an LA storm drain. After PCD tried to get assistance from LA, Paul finished the job himself. Since the Breeze Bike Share program launched, only one bike has disappeared and we’re trying to keep it that way! We thank Paul for going above and beyond.  

Captain Paul Bellante, Fire Captain 

Santa Monica Fire Department 

Captain Paul Bellante received the Elaine for his tremendous efforts as the project lead to get the Fire Station #4 at the City yards opened. His work involved a substantial amount of coordination and planning over the past few months to turn five empty trailers into an around-the-clock home for the next year for Engine #4. 

Benjamin Andrews, Technical Staff Assistant 

Housing and Economic Development 

Over the past year, HED staff developed a pilot program to provide financial assistance to extremely low-income, senior, rent-burdened, long-term residents of rent-controlled housing. The effort involved a significant amount of surveying and data analysis. Ben Andrews worked tirelessly behind the scenes to gather and analyze data related to the proposed program. Council approved the guidelines for the pilot program in late July, and HED's efforts would not have been possible without Ben’s diligence and skill. 


Amanda Baldinelli, Brenda Saravia, Chanel Osorio, Kathy Wagner, Meagan Nagy, Sandra McDowell, Shannon Merriweather, Teichnique George, Vanessa Taylor and Yajaira Sanchez 

Public Safety Communications Team 

The Public Safety Communications team was awarded The Elaine for their dedicated work during the shooting on Main Street in August. Firefighters responded to treat and transport both the victim and the shooter. In the midst of the event, our 911 Dispatch Center fielded a deluge of calls from those who saw the shootings or heard the shots. Their solid teamwork and professionalism helped support the police and fire department resources handling the situation on Main Street. Amanda Baldinelli was the “hot seat” dispatcher. She never lost her cool and maintained her composure during the entire incident. The team processed more than 125 telephone calls in the first hour after the incident, which is more than twice the normal number of calls during that time of day, and two dispatchers responded to the incident command post to provide assistance. 

Officer Peter Lashley 

Santa Monica Police Department 

Officer Lashley recently initiated a coordinated safety operation at Chess Park. Since August 10th, there have been 51 police initiated periodic checks, six calls for police services, four citations and one arrest. Since the area is accessible 24 hours a day, a variety of police resources were deployed in order to have a positive impact around the clock. Creating a safe environment is paramount to the City of Santa Monica, therefore police resources as well as collaboration with other City Department’s will continue to be deployed in the area to provide for a safe, fun and beautiful location that people enjoy on a daily basis. 

Heidi von Tongln, Deputy City Attorney 

City Attorney's Office 

Through special grant funding, Santa Monica will be a pilot test for a new Mobile Stroke Unit operating out of UCLA. The specially equipped ambulances bring a diagnostic CT scanner and therapeutic thrombolysis directly to patients in the field – providing the kind of care on route to the hospital that a patient would get in an emergency room. Santa Monica won the opportunity to pioneer this experiment by offering a quick path to authorization. But then we hit a snag when it was discovered that the pilot was in conflict with our current ambulance agreement. The problem could have resulted in disruption to our ambulance service, so Deputy City Attorney III Heidi von Tongeln “dropped everything” to work out the challenges among all three parties. With only a week before the scheduled commencement of the Stroke Unit pilot, Heidi worked over the weekend to resolve a fairly tricky situation on a very tight timeline.  


Lou Enriquez, Library Services Officer 

Santa Monica Public Library 

Lou Enriquez and the Library Service Officers are nominated for their everyday perseverance, flexibility and ultimate customer service. The safety and security of the Library's customers, staff and volunteers are all important to Lou and his team. Whether providing a friendly welcome to those entering the Library or handling delicate incidents involving behavior infractions inside or outside of the Library, Lou’s team handles all with diligence and diplomacy. Lou’s expectations for his team are high – his judgement and training of the staff is exceptional and Library employees and the community have a high regard for the work. Lou and his team are true liaisons to all aspects of security with ongoing and effective collaboration with Santa Monica Police Department, Human Services Division and nonprofits like the People’s Concern.  


Has a staff member gone above and beyond for you? Feel free to let us know by emailing with "The Elaine" in the subject line.  

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