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Governor’s Employer Awards program

About the awards

Recognizes and promotes the achievements of employers, organizations and individuals who have improved employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Each year, nominations begin in May and run through the summer. 

Read the brochure for more information.

Employer of the Year

Includes private, nonprofit, public and youth employers.

Direct Support Professional Award

A lifetime achievement award presented to an individual within the field of supported employment. This individual is a job coach or job developer who supports people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in supported employment. This professional is a strong advocate, supporter and communicator. They are honored for creating success for people with disabilities every day. 

Governor's Trophy

A lifetime achievement award presented to an individual with a disability. This individual has made the world better for those with disabilities through their advocacy, services, programs and more. This award is given in memory of Carolyn Blair Brown. She was a member of the GCDE who did not fear or deny her disability, which was adult-onset blindness. She embraced the adversity she faced, and it fueled her to work on behalf of the entire community of individuals who experience disabilities. A driving force of her advocacy was to establish “one voice” and to empower people who experience a range of disabilities. 

Toby Olson Lifetime Impact Award

Honors an individual who embodies the qualities and characteristics of the late Toby Olson, former GCDE executive secretary. It recognizes an individual who has made a lifetime commitment to addressing the inequities people with disabilities face in their community and at the state and national levels. This individual can demonstrate specific, direct actions that dramatically change the lives of those in the disability community. Since this award has such stringent criteria, the nomination process is different. See below for more information. 

Nominations are now open for 2024!

Nominations open on May 31 and close on July 31, 2024. Anyone can submit a nomination. You can even nominate yourself or your business. For questions, email GCDEAwards@esd.wa.gov

Read frequently asked questions for more information. 

View templates for the nomination forms prior to submitting in Survey Monkey (nomination link below).

Employer Award

Individual Award

Nominate an employer or individual

2024 Governor's Employer Award nomination form. The form includes the nominations for both employers and individuals, except for the Toby Olson Lifetime Impact Award. Select which type of nomination you are submitting. For help with the form or to request a copy in alternate formats, email GCDEAwards@esd.wa.gov

Nominate an individual for the Toby Olson Lifetime Impact Award

Nominations for this award are accepted throughout each year. To be considered for the October ceremony, GCDE must receive nominations by July 31 of the same year. The nomination process has 2 steps.

Step 1:
Submit a letter of intent prepared by the nominator, and an endorsement letter prepared by a current, former or emeritus GCDE member. Email these letters to GCDEAwards@esd.wa.gov. GCDE will post templates of these letters as soon as possible.

GCDE will review the letters to determine if the nomination should proceed. GCDE will notify the nominator whether the submission will move forward or not. If it moves forward, GCDE will send the nominator an approval letter by email. It will include a link to the nomination form.

Step 2:
Once the nominator receives GCDE's approval letter, the nominator needs to complete an official nomination packet with supporting documents.

Awards subcommittee members

  1. Yvonne Bussler-White, subcommittee chair
  2. Amy Cloud
  3. Clarence Eskridge
  4. Cullyn Foxlee
  5. Damiana Harper, GCDE chair
  6. Janet Bruckshen
  7. Daniel Ledgett
  8. Matt Nash, subcommittee vice-chair
  9. Mike Hatch
  10. Pat Bauccio
  11. Tammy Stevens
  12. Lucas Doelman
  13. Emily Heike, GCDE staff
  14. Elizabeth Gordon, GCDE staff
  15. Elaine Stefanowicz, GCDE staff

2023 awards

Last year's event luncheon was at the Wenatchee Convention Center on Oct. 6 and was a great success! Read about the 2023 recipients.

Hover over the photo and use the arrow on the right to scroll through the photos. You can see the photos on Flickr.  

Thank you to our 2023 sponsors: Microsoft, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Washington State Employees Credit Union, Employment Security Department, Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Office of Financial Management, Department of Services for the Blind, SkillSource Regional Workforce Board, and Department of Enterprise Services.


Past award recipients


Awards recipients 2016-2017


Large Nonprofit Employer of the Year – Battelle/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Medium Nonprofit Employer of the Year – Excelsior Youth Center

Small Private Employer of the Year – InsideWorks

Youth Employer Award of the Year – Little Anchor Daycare

Large Private Employer of the Year – Microsoft

Local Government Employer of the Year – Snohomish County

Medium Private Employer of the Year – Sodexo - Walla Walla University Team

Small Nonprofit Employer of the Year – Washington Access Fund

State Public Employer of the Year – Washington State Department of Licensing

Governor's Trophy – Emily Cooper

Direct Support Professional – Sue Ann Lemkin

Awards recipients 2017


Governor's Trophy – Mark Adreon

Direct Support Professional – Bonnie Sinclair

Medium Nonprofit Employer of the Year – Bridgeways

Large Private Employer of the Year – Seattle Mariners

Medium Private Employer of the Year – Port Angeles Safeway

Small Private Employer of the Year  Northwest Trophy

Youth Employer of the Year – Seattle Children's

Public Employer of the Year  City of Seattle

Award recipients 2018-2019


Governor's Trophy - Don Kay 

Direct Support Professional - Paula Bouwer 

Medium Non-Profit Employer of the Year - Cascade Public Media 

Large Private Employer of the Year - Fred Meyer #122

Medium Private Employer of the Year - Kulshan Brewing Co.

Small Private Employer of the Year - Gigglechops Dog Wash

Youth Employer of the Year - Educational Service District 123 

Public Employer of the Year - City of Bellevue

Awards recipients 2019


Governor's Trophy - Duane French 

Direct Support Professional - Collen Thornburg 

Small Nonprofit Employer of the Year - Bella's Voice 

Large Private Employer of the Year - Huntwood Industries 

Medium Private Employers of the Year - Quality Inn/Welcome Home Oak Harbor, Welcome Home Oak Harbor Senior Memory Care 

Small Private Employer of the Year - Jerrol's

Youth Employer of the Year - Swedish Edmonds Hospital 

Public Employers of the Year - Seattle Army Corps/Employment Security/Kittitas Co, Washington State Employment Security Department, Kittitas County

Toby Olson Legacy Award - Toby Olson

Awards recipients 2020


Direct Support Professional - Debra Tan 

Small Non-Profit Employer of the Year - Community Seeds / Calico Cat Café 

Large Private Employer of the Year - MOD Pizza, Washington

Medium Private Employer of the Year - Safeway Store #1448, Sequim 

Small Private Employer of the Year - Papa Murphy’s Lake Forest Park

Public Employer of the Year - King County Road Services Division 

Toby Olson Legacy Award - Mike Hatch

Governor's Trophy - Dave Reynolds 

Awards recipients 2021


Direct Support Professional - Cathy Eylar

Toby Olson Legacy Award - David Lord

Small Private Employer -
Bean Box

Medium Private Employer - Tomlinson Linens

Large Private Employer - Amazon

Small Nonprofit Employer - DBSC

Youth Employer - King County Wastewater Treatment Division

Awards recipients 2022


Governor’s Trophy - Ivanova Smith

Direct Support Professional - Mary Sabetto

Small Private Employer - Restoration Management Company

Medium Private Employer - JCPenney Marysville

Large Private Employer - ABM Business & Industry

Small Nonprofit Employer - Spectrum Studios

Large Nonprofit Employer - Seattle Children’s Hospital

Youth Employer - Walgreen’s Sedro-Woolley

Award recipients 2023


  • Chuck E. Cheese Burlington - Youth Employer of the Year Award

  • Center for Independence - Small Nonprofit Employer of the Year Award

  • New Leaf, Inc. – Medium Nonprofit Employer of the Year Award

  • Juanita KinderCare - Small Private Employer of the Year Award

  • Thompson Seattle - Medium Private Employer of the Year Award

  • Thrive Communities - Large Private Employer of the Year Award

  • Washington State Department of Financial Institutions – Medium Public (state) Employer of the Year Award

  • City of Kent – Large Public (city) Employer of the Year Award

  • Washington State Health Care Authority – Large Public (state) Employer of the Year Award

  • Washington River Protection Solutions – Large Public (federal) Employer of the Year Award

  • The committee also acknowledged:

    • Marci Carpenter with the Governor’s Trophy in Memory of Carolyn Blair Brown. This award, named after a former GCDE member, is the highest honor given to someone with a disability who has significantly empowered people with disabilities in Washington. Carpenter was recognized for:

      • Supporting parents of blind children who receive needed education.

      • Helping the City of Seattle be more ADA compliant.

      • Fighting for disability equality in the Legislature.

      • Decades of working with state and national federations to fight for the rights of people with disabilities in all areas of life.

    • Anja Post with the Direct Support Professional of the Year Award. Post, in her 32-plus year career, has built many relationships with employers in her community, giving her the ability to quickly place the right person in the right position. Post also creates relationships with her clients. She gets to know the whole person, enabling her to understand not only their interests, but their strengths and weaknesses as employees and as people.