The 5281 Award recognizes individuals and teams that exemplified the STARS (Service, Teamwork, Accountability, Respect and Safety) values, supported sustainability practices, and help to deliver a world class city by achieving one or more of the City's Five Goals:

  1. To spur new economic opportunities.
  2. To increase opportunities for Denver’s Kids.
  3. To foster a strong relationship between our residents and Denver’s safety departments and strengthen the safety net to protect our most vulnerable residents.
  4. To transform city government to provide the highest quality services at the lowest possible costs.
  5. To re-energize the city’s commitment to environmental, economic and social sustainability to make Denver the most livable city in America.

A list of the winners and descriptions can be found below. 

2015 Individual Winners

Michael was hired to manage Denver Parks and Recreation’s biggest initiative, the River Vision Implementation Plan. The $30 million dollar plan involves completely renovating four parks along the South Platte River into world class park destinations, renovating and upgrading over two miles of the river trail, and restore a quality habitat to a large section of the river that is currently considered an aquatic dead zone. Michael took great care to meet with the many stakeholders whom have an interest in the project, and organize the numerous contracts required to receive funding for the project. He met on site with nearby communities to walk them through the design work. These communities are now the biggest supporters of the project. Michael’s development of a new budget management tool, along with his organizational skills kept the plan on time and on budget, all the while keeping stakeholder’s happy. Michael’s excellent work on this initiative has resulted in Mayor Michael Hancock personally selecting this project as one of three key economic opportunities for Denver.


Frank Daidone has made a major impact on how Technology Services contributes to the city’s overall success. He believes that employees should be a number one priority so that they can in turn deliver better service to customers. In 2014, Frank and his team focused on providing improved performance for DPD, by deploying data network to over 500 mobile terminals in police cars. He helped the Department of Safety by creating new dashboards allowing them to make intelligent business decisions around crimes, and Officer productivity. He has been instrumental in the City’s eGovernment initiatives and applications, including the latest application, PocketGov. Which helps citizens access City services and requests, either online or on their mobile devices. As a member of the iFund Committee, he has implemented a cost effective and sustainable Cloud First strategy to further strengthen the City’s ability to deliver services to customers anywhere and anytime. He also partnered with DIA to “woo” technology companies to Denver. Frank is also creating opportunities for Denver’s youth. He works with Denver Public Schools to mentor and coach kids in the field of Technology. At West Academy about 56 students have experienced the work that Technology Services provides, including repairing PCs and developing code. The team comes to kids and offers hands on training. Frank’s staff says, “The culture he has instilled makes Technology Services a great place to work; we are a motivated workforce that is producing at a very high level.”  



In early 2014, Mark Inzana joined Denver International Airport as the Manager of Customer Initiatives. One of his tasks was to improve the Ambassador Volunteer Program. The Volunteers are known for their hospitable service for the thousands of customers who travel and enjoy DIA everyday. Although the program was working, Mark realized there was room for improvement. In the first two months he embarked on an improvement journey with the volunteers. He benchmarked other airport programs to establish standardized performance criteria for DIA. Mark’s extraordinary leadership skills and dedication to the volunteers and the program remained at the highest level, even after he lost nearly 20% of his workforce due to changes in the program. He was able to maintain the 40,000 hours that were donated by the volunteers. Marks’ leadership style and approach to problem solving put the Ambassador Program at the forefront of the American Association of Airport Executive’s Customer Service Conference. He was able to present the program’s success to other airport volunteer program managers, inspiring them to find ways to improve customer satisfaction at their airports. Mark is not done with his customer improvement journey, he has started new pet therapy program at the airport that will provide some much needed stress relief DIA’s customers. 



In October of last year, Denver Deputy Sheriff Gregory Liggins showed his fellow deputies, inmates and the community that there is another side to the Denver Sheriff Department. He showed them that they are trained, dedicated, caring, and selfless individuals. While on duty at the Downtown Denver Detention Center, Deputy Gregory Liggins witnessed an inmate standing on the second floor cell pod railing with a sheet tied around his neck. As he ran towards the inmate the man jumped and was dangling from the railing. Deputy Liggins lifted the inmate with one arm while he reached for his radio with the other, making sure the inmate did not get strangled by the sheet. He held the inmate up until the other deputies were able to free the sheet from around his neck. The inmate received medical treatment and thanked Deputy Liggins for saving his life. Deputy Liggins’ heroics inspired other deputies to be more mindful of the chance of inmates committing suicide. The Denver City Council, the media, and the community publicly recognized him for his actions. His story helped to begin to restore the department’s reputation with the public and improve staff morale. Deputy Liggins was also nominated for the department’s meritorious commendation medal. He certainly is a true hero.  



Jessica Skibo’s commitment to teamwork and communication has been key to contracts the City has secured for the Department of Safety. In 2014, she was instrumental in the Denver Police Department becoming a leader in the areas of HALO cameras and body cameras in a short amount of time. Jessica’s extraordinary leadership and customer service carried DPD through the process for the procurement of new safety equipment and systems. She led the team through complex meetings, securing the right vendors for the success of the police department. She managed meetings between DPD and Purchasing for a first ever re-write of uniform specifications meeting the particular needs of the officers. Her knowledge of the procurement process coupled with her relationship development skills, put DPD and Purchasing on the fast track to receive the much needed uniforms, and safety equipment. Safety systems, like the HALO cameras provide the citizens of Denver an extra layer of safety. She was able to secure new contracts for the city’s HALO Surveillance System, helping to improve the current support service and obtained $15,600 in cost savings. She helped to provide an overall savings of $422, 633, for a total of 13 procurements. 


2015 Team Winners

In 2014, the Denver Parks and Recreation team was in desperate need of a new software program to properly handle all Point of Sale transactions. The new selected system needed to have the capacity for implementation in all of DPR’s facilities, campgrounds, and work with the MY Denver program. Additionally, it had to have an online capability for registration, membership sales and reservations for customers. After selecting the ActiveNet software program, Denver Parks and Recreation knew it needed strong teams to implement this new complex system. From this, the ActiveNet Implementation Team was born. The team consisted of employees from various levels of the department who were tasked with different objectives including Charter revisions, budget requests and changes, training and more. The team’s implementation efforts standardized work and business processes through the creation of manuals, trainings, videos and system configurations. Customers can register for various events, permits, and activities anytime Sixty-three percent of all winter activity registration is now conducted online. In 2014, Holiday sales increased by 68%, totaling an extraordinary $470,000. Denver’s youth can now register on-line for their MY Denver card, and can check out books at the Denver Library.


2014 was a year of significant change for the Adult Protective Services (APS) across Colorado. The State Department of Human Services had one year to prepare for the implementation of the Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse law. Denver’s APS leadership team worked with city officials from the Denver Police Department, the City Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office to establish the city’s protocol to address reporting calls from Denver citizens and the mandatory reporters. They hosted a training conference for over 300 attendees on mandatory reporting for the Denver Community. Additionally, the Denver APS volunteered to be a pilot county for 90 days for the new data system, CAPS – the Colorado Adult Protection System. Workers were handling cases in both the old data system and piloting the new data system, until the final transition occurred in July. The outcome of the team’s performance has strengthened relationships with the Denver Police Department, the Denver City Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office to ensure that Denver was in compliance with the new law. Throughout the changes, Denver APS maintained a 98% timely response rate for all new referrals and a 15% increase in referrals. The Denver Adult Protective Services Team serves victims of financial exploitation, physical abuse, sexual abuse and caretaker neglect. Their dedication and years of experience exemplify the STARS values to the Denver Community and the at-risk adults they serve every day.


For years, the Denver Animal Shelter struggled with key performance measures and staff morale. In 2014, the Denver Animal Shelter participated in a six-month program with Peak Performance, called Peak Partnership. Executive Director Alice Nightengale immediately committed to training all staff members in the Peak Academy and required each staff member to “put the training to the test” by both submitting an innovation and participating in a team-based Rapid Improvement Event and/or workshop. Prior to the partnership, the shelter teams worked in silos, resulting in an average length of stay for animals of 14 days. As staff and volunteers watched the animals stay and deteriorate, morale depleted, as did the community’s relationship with the shelter. Peak Partnership helped employees change how the shelter did business. The team ran adoption specials, mapped out processes to reduce backlog, reduced hold times on stray dogs and streamlined the spay and neuter timeframes. The improvement efforts made the shelter a better place to work and improved relationships with other key partner agencies such as Denver 311 and the Denver Dumb Friends League. The Denver Animal Shelter’s work serves as the model for other city agencies, and animal shelters in Memphis, Virginia and Eagle County, Colorado. The shelter reduced the length of stay for all animals from 14 days to 11 days, saving Denver $365,700. The staff worked on 47 different process improvement projects resulting in a total annual savings of $792, 540. Additionally, the shelter’s new name Denver Animal Protection truly reflects their work.

Locating absent parents in order to establish paternity and child support orders is a difficult task for Denver Human Services, especially with the population becoming more transient. Last year, in an attempt to have those individuals come to the Child Support Division to discuss their orders, the Child Support Services APA Establishment Team utilized their customer service skills through the Early Intervention model. Through the use of the model the Child Support Division contacted customers, as soon as a child support case was initiated. This process allowed the clients to have more of a voice in their child support orders, more ownership, and a greater understanding of what is expected of them through the lifetime of the order. It also required the team to have more accountability and provided the clients proper information. The team was able to complete more orders in just 30 days of receiving the case, versus the normal 90 days -- increasing the number of established child support orders by 33%. This resulted in more children receiving child support benefits in a shorter timeframe. The APA Establishment Team is committed to help Denver’s Children have better lives, and dedicated to building stronger family connections. They continue Denver’s growing philosophy of innovation through the LEAN process.  


Children under the care of Denver Human Services (DHS) are in a tough place during the holidays. Children are away from their parents, or parents working through the system do not often have the resources to provide gifts for their children. The Children’s Holiday Committee at Denver International Airport volunteers their time to fundraise and provide gifts from the airport community to make Denver a better place to live for these children and families. The group meets with airport concessionaires, distributes communications to airline partners, and collects donations. The strategy is to fundraise as much as possible, so that every child leaves the party with something, including necessities like winter boots. The giving doesn’t end with the children attending the party. If the DIA team receives more donations than needed, the remaining gifts are donated to the Give Denver program at DHS for other families in need. Last year, the Holiday Committee along with support of the airlines, concessionaires, contractors, consultants and employees helped to raise nearly $7,000 in cash and in-kind gifts, food and clothing. To date, the DIA airport community has raised more than $124,000 and provided clothing, shoes, blankets, food and toys for more than 735 Denver Human Services youth and children. 


The effective implementation of the first-ever sales and commercialization of retail marijuana was absolutely critical as the entire world was watching. The Marijuana Inspectors Team ensured that failure was not an option for the launching of retail marijuana in Denver. The inspectors committed to the Mayor’s direction that the City adopts a collaborative model in the implementation of retail marijuana. Collaborating agencies included Denver Fire, Denver Police Department, Excise and Licenses, Community Planning and Development, and Denver Environmental Health. Utilizing Peak Academy methodologies, the inspectors participated in a multi-department Value Stream Analysis to identify the common themes and issues seen in marijuana licensing and regulation. They worked to educate themselves and keep each other informed of new practices, emerging technologies, and adapted policies to respond to unique regulatory needs. They built new processes from scratch to ensure all medical marijuana businesses were licensed as retail marijuana by July 1, 2014. The project began with 79 businesses in April, and about half were licensed by the deadline. The others were either denied, withdrew their applications or were already inactive. By working together, the inspectors have been able to stay in front of issues and anticipate potential problems, allowing for the safe integration of a brand new industry into the City.


Peak Performance and the Denver Peak Academy Team work to increase capacity to do more good by enabling their colleagues to innovate in their areas of expertise. Denver defines innovation as strategic change resulting in performance improvement. This means leaders create and communicate a vision of success through their strategic plans, while investing in their colleagues. The investment in employees and their ability to innovate is driven by the Peak Academy, which teaches colleagues how to subtract waste from their processes, and increase the value delivered to customers using the Lean methodology. The Peak Academy empowers Denver colleagues to remove that which does not add value. Last year, because of Peak Academy, the city accomplished a cost savings of nearly $5.4 million dollars and greatly improved efficiencies. Nearly 200 trainees received their Black Belts, and 1,700 received their Green Belts. Peak Academy has trained approximately 200 Non-City and County of Denver participants, representing 28 non-profit partners, and 30 distinct governmental jurisdictions.

Inspired by the book, For the Love of Cities, and Denver’s Cultural Plan (Imagine 2020), the P.S. You Are Here Team set out to make Denver a better place to live by facilitating the creation and activation of beautiful public spaces that inspire and delight people, making them love their city even more. Building on the trend of small-scale, low-cost urban interventions known as “tactical urbanism,” the team built a micro-grant program to encourage the efforts of Denver residents. However, the team learned, smaller isn’t necessarily easier. A similar micro-grant project had been initiated in years past, but various City processes and requirements had prevented it from fully launching. What set this new project apart was the commitment of the employees to break down silos between departments and cut the “red tape” that can separate citizens from engaging City resources. P.S. You Are Here encourages place-based, grassroots involvement from the entire community, creating authentic livable neighborhood experiences. Last year, the program received 46 project submittals; eight community-led projects were awarded funds.

Over the past few years the Denver County Court identified 300 individuals who were top violators and persons seen most frequently in court, jail, and charged with low-level crimes. It was determined that this population needed a comprehensive response from the criminal justice system in order to break the cycle of re-offending. In 2014, the court started offering individuals a way out of this cycle through the Recovery Court Program. The program provides increased accountability, case managers, housing, behavioral health and trauma care, peer support, rewards and sanctions. The program allows 40 individuals to participate. A review team meets on Wednesday to discuss the progress of the participants. If they are doing well, they receive rewards, and if they are not they receive sanctions. The participants appear before Judge Breese at 2pm every Wednesday. This schedule builds rapport between the defendant, judge and other stakeholders, which makes reinforcement more meaningful. From September through December the Failure to Appear rate was only 7% compared to a 44% rate of the arraignment courtroom were their cases were typically heard. Six months prior to the program, these 40 individuals had 95 arrests and spent 1,932 days in jail. Six months after the program, they had 49 arrests and spent 546 days in jail. Many of the participants have alcohol or drug addictions and/or mental illness. They receive temporary housing, for the first time in a long time, and are grateful for the positive reinforcement and services they are receiving. 


A challenge for Denver’s community sustainability work has been how to engage residents to help themselves make meaningful change in their neighborhoods. Denver Environmental Health’s Sustainable Neighborhoods Program gives residents the opportunity to become active partners in building vibrant and sustainable communities. The program provides support to assist citizens in enhancing neighborhood sustainability. Neighborhoods organize workshops, projects, and events that enhance the livability of their neighborhood and reduce residents’ ecological footprints. They can also earn credits for their efforts and, depending on the number of credits earned in a given year, they may receive designation as a “Participating Sustainable Neighborhood” or an “Outstanding Sustainable Neighborhood.” The program helps the city meet its Sustainability goals. As a result of the team’s work, nine neighborhoods applied for the program, and three neighborhoods were selected as the “freshman” class. And after one year, all three neighborhoods have achieved the “Outstanding Sustainable Neighborhood” Designation. Additionally, over 50 projects have been completed in neighborhoods; over 3,400 people have attended workshops; four community gardens have been built, over 200,000 pounds of scrap metal recycled, and 150 LED light bulbs were distributed, saving residents over $3,300 per year.

2014 Awards Ceremony

5281 Awards Nominations Closed January 30, 2015

The 5281 Awards nominations are now closed. The 2015 winners have been selected and will be honored at the annual luncheon and ceremony on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. 

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