FEBRUARY 25-26, 2020


This event brings award recipients and leading organizations together as a Baldrige-based community to honor excellence and share best practices for learning and continuous improvement purposes. The event showcases the impact Baldrige has on creating strong communities in California and the nation.


Dates: February 25-26, 2020

Location: Balboa Bay Resort 

Address: 1221 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92663

Hotel Parking: Overnight Valet $25; Day Valet $20

Nearby Airport: John Wayne Airport (~7 miles)





Pre-Conference Workshop Facilitator
Sonja Wulff
President, Sonja Wulff Consulting

Former Baldrige Recipient, Master Baldrige Examiner & CAPE Judge

Sonja Wulff has dedicated the past 15 years of her career to performance excellence and brings unique Baldrige experience as an award recipient, examiner, judge, and consultant. She is nationally recognized in the Baldrige community as an instructor and frequent advisor to the U.S. Department of Commerce program. She has experience in organizational assessment, integration, and transformation, as well as strategic measurement and customer and workforce engagement.


Sonja has built a successful consulting company that supports organizations across the country on their journeys to excellence. She works with executive teams to redesign, align, and integrate their systems for leadership, strategic planning, measurement, customer and workforce engagement, and operational effectiveness to help them achieve performance excellence. She also has had particular success in writing and coaching development of award applications to help organizations earn Baldrige national site visits.


Sonja has held leadership positions with two nationally recognized health systems, where she served as an advisor to the executive teams and facilitated implementation of Baldrige principles to drive organizational transformation. As part of that work, she completed comprehensive organizational assessments and wrote national Baldrige applications that earned national site visits and, for Poudre Valley Health System, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.


In all interactions, Sonja brings her passion for performance excellence and holds true to a strong sense of personal integrity, genuine respect for each organization’s individual culture, and a desire to make Baldrige as easy and practical as possible.


Sonja is an Alumni Examiner on the Malcolm Baldrige Board of Examiners. During her 15 years on the Board, she has facilitated national examiner training, led numerous examiner teams, and served on multiple advisory teams in support of the Baldrige Program for Performance Excellence. She currently serves as a judge for the California Awards for Performance Excellence and previously served as a judge for the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence.


Sonja is a Certified Lean Master. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biology and Chemistry from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and a Master of Arts Degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Board of Directors Dinner Speaker

Mara Bryant

Operations Executive, White Memorial Health Care

2019 Baldrige Award Recipient

As Operations Executive, Mara Bryant leads out in key initiatives integration of the Malcolm Baldrige business framework, strategic planning and organizational performance. In 1999, she became Adventist Health's first national Malcolm Baldrige examiner in the healthcare category, which has helped White Memorial better understand and implement the Malcolm Baldrige criteria.

Bryant has also set up an effective productivity standard to monitor staffing and help ensure correct nursing ratios. She also established the decision support function to provide comparative data, which is vital to strategic and operational planning.

She is actively pursuing research in racially ambiguous babies, its implications in healthcare and social determinants of health. Bryant has 2 publications on this topic and participated on an NIH conference to begin looking at alternative models.

Bryant first worked at White Memorial as a volunteer, at 14 years of age. In 1984, she was hired as a part-time secretary while completing her bachelor's degree. In the 1990s, she held positions as Joint Commission Project Manager and Director of Quality and Resource Management.

Mara holds a Master of Business Administration degree from La Sierra University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Administration of Justice from California State University at Los Angeles.

Conference Morning Keynote Speaker 

Betsy Pimentel

Vice President, Defense Programs, Stellar Solutions, Inc. 

2017 Baldrige Award Recipient

Betsy Pimentel is the Vice President, Defense Programs at Stellar Solutions, Inc., a Baldrige National Quality Award recipient in 2017. Throughout her 20-year career in the Air Force and nearly 20 years in industry, Betsy has been involved in many firsts, including being a member of the first United States Air Force Academy class that included women (1976-1980) and an operations team integrating the first Department of Defense payload on the Space Shuttle - successfully flown in 1982. Additionally, Betsy was the first female commander of a nuclear missile squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.


Her aerospace career encompassed all aspects of developing, building and operating satellites and went all the way to the White House where she served as Director, Defense Policy on the National Security Council in the White House from 1998-2000. Betsy joined Stellar Solutions, Inc. in 2003 as Vice President, Defense Programs. During her time at Stellar, the company has grown to nearly 200 employees and over $50M in revenue. Stellar Solutions Inc. began its Baldrige journey in 2006 as part of its focus on "Built to Last." 

Conference Afternoon Keynote Speaker 

Kelly DiMartino

Deputy City Manager, City of Fort Collins, CO 

2017 Baldrige Award Recipient

Kelly DiMartino is the Deputy City Manager for the City of Fort Collins, CO, where she oversees Information and Employee Services, Community Services and the City’s Performance Excellence Program. During her more than 20 years in Fort Collins, she has helped lead and implement a variety of programs and initiatives, including a robust citizen engagement program, a priority-based Budgeting for Outcomes and performance measurement process, and numerous workforce initiatives. Kelly is active in several professional associations, including the Alliance for Innovation, the International City County Managers Association, and the Northern Colorado HR100.


Prior to coming to Fort Collins, Kelly worked as the Public Information Officer for the City of Grand Island, NE.  She has a bachelor's degree from Hastings College in business administration with an emphasis in marketing and a Master’s of Business Administration from Colorado State University.



9:00am - 4:00pm 

Pre-Conference Workshop | LeTCI How You're Doing: Getting the Most Out of Your Results

Sonja Wulff, Facilitator 

Most organizations do not suffer from a lack of data. However, making sure you’re measuring the right things and using those results in a meaningful way can be challenging. Join other excellence-focused organizations and former Baldrige Recipient, Master Baldrige Examiner, and CAPE Judge Sonja Wulff for a day of hands-on learning to gain new insights into how the Baldrige framework can help you better understand organizational performance and leverage results to drive improvement.


Deliverables for the day will include:

  • Guided self-assessment of your organization’s performance measurement system

  • Identification of measures that are “key” for your organization


Facilitator Sonja Wulff has dedicated the past 15 years to performance excellence and brings unique Baldrige experience as an award recipient, examiner, judge, and consultant. She is a Master Examiner with the Baldrige Program for Performance Excellence and a Judge for the California Awards for Performance Excellence. She played a key role in operationalizing Baldrige for national Baldrige Recipient Poudre Valley Health System and now works as a performance excellence consultant with organizations across the country.

5:30 - 6:30pm 

Board of Directors Dinner Reception 


Dinner with CCE Board of Directors and Guest Speaker 

Mara Bryant, Operations Executive, Adventist Health White Memorial
2019 Baldrige Award Recipient


The CCE Board of Directors invite you to join industry leaders for a remarkable evening of great conversation and delicious food while overlooking Newport Bay. The evening features our special guest speaker Mara Bryant.


7:00-8:00 AM

Conference Registration Opens

8:00-9:20 AM 

Welcome Breakfast with Keynote Speaker

Topic: Continuing Our Stellar Journey

Betsy Pimentel, Vice President Defense Programs

Stellar Solutions, Inc. (2017 Baldrige Award Recipient) 

9:30-10:00 AM 

Session 1A | Achieving Organizational Success Through Strategic Planning

Amy Eskew, Director of Program Development

Mitzi Ressmann, Chief Operating Officer

Texas Hospital Association (2019 Eureka Recipient) 

9:30-10:00 AM

Session 1B | Less Lagging, More Leading - Creating Metrics for Improvement

Tyler Newton, Operations Executive
Teddy Griffin, Director of Strategy 

Adventist Health Sonora (2019 Eureka Recipient)

10:10-10:40 AM

Session 2A | Alignment: Plan, Resource, Review

Kelly DiMartino, Deputy City Manager

City of Fort Collins, CO (2017 Baldrige Award Recipient)

10:10-10:40 AM

Session 2B | Mission Drive Partnership with our East LA Community 

Mara Bryant, Operations Executive 

Nirali Desai, Director of Accreditation & Organizational Performance

Adventist Health White Memorial (2019 Baldrige Award recipient)


10:50-11:20 AM

Session 3A | California Team Excellence Award / UC Irvine Student Center & Events Services IT Developers Team (CTEA 2019 Recipient)
Brian Petyo, Marketing Manager
UC Irvine 

10:50-11:20 AM

Session 3B | Improving Quality of Life in California - One Community at a Time 

Stephanie Norling, Communities of Excellence 2026

Nina Plata, Kings County 
Allison Boyer, San Diego South Region


11:30 - 12:00 PM

Session 4A | Empowering Our Workforce Through Dream Jobs

Betsy Pimentel, Vice President of Defense Programs

Ed Dane, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator

Stellar Solutions, Inc. (2017 Baldrige Award Recipient)

11:30 - 12:00 PM

Session 4B | Moving Past Excellence to Improve Organizational Performance

Wade Aschbrenner, External Relations Officer

Charter School of San Diego (2015 Baldrige Award Recipient)

12:00 - 1:15 PM

Lunch with Keynote Speaker
Topic: Creating a Culture of High Performance Using the Baldrige Excellence Framework 

Kelly DiMartino, Deputy City Manager, City of Fort Collins (2017 Baldrige Recipient)

1:15 - 1:45 PM

Leadership Panel 

Audience-driven question and answer session with a panel of C-Suite executives

1:45 - 2:15 PM

Refreshments and Networking Break 

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Awards Ceremony 

Celebrating California Awards for Performance Excellence Recipients, CAPE Volunteers & Communities of Excellence 2026 

3:15 - 3:30 PM

Closing Remarks 



  • Adventist Health System

  • Altura Credit Union 

  • Charter School of San Diego 

  • County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency 

  • Desert Sands Unified School District

  • Momentum Group

  • San Francisco Public Works

  • Stellar Solutions, Inc. 

  • Sutter Health System 


  • Credit Card: A 4.9% processing fee and a $0.99 service charge will be applied to each ticket.

  • Check: Please email Lindsey Cunningham if paying by check.

California Council for Excellence is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization (Tax ID: 33-0542335)

© 2020 California Council for Excellence. All Rights Reserved.