The California Joint Powers Insurance Authority’s (California JPIA) latest news has been 20 years in the making.
In the early 2000s, responding to upwardly trending claims, the California JPIA developed a more targeted approach to helping member agencies manage risk. A 2004 member survey revealed that, although members were satisfied with the Authority’s risk management evaluation strategy, they found it difficult to implement the associated recommendations. As a result, members told the Authority that they wanted to better understand how to implement risk management changes.
“That was the genesis of thinking differently about how to help members,” said Assistant Executive Officer Norm Lefmann, who joined the Authority in March 2004 as a senior risk manager.
The LossCAP program, implemented in 2007, was the first step in more active problem-solving with members, pairing in-the-field evaluations with analysis and strategic risk management recommendations to reduce the frequency and severity of losses and identify underlying causes of significant claims.
To complement the program and provide assistance in the completion of LossCAP action plan items, the Authority turned to its own risk managers. One of the most important developments of the 2010s, according to Lefmann, was the introduction of a regional service delivery model. Authority risk managers, working geographically from within the membership’s regions, were to focus on member relationships and provide risk management resources.
“Our risk managers have a pivotal role in managing relationships with members,” continued Lefmann. “Moving the risk managers out of the office and into the field provided first-hand access to participating in meetings and facilitating training, as well as getting to know members on a personal level.”
Working closely with members to identify and respond to risk, the Authority’s risk managers are trusted advisors, educators, and advocates.
“The risk manager model creates a relationship of dialogue,” said Jorge Garcia, management services director for the City of Pismo Beach. “I feel comfortable getting input and direct access to Authority staff to answer my questions and provide support to my entire organization. Having a risk manager that is engaged has resulted in reduced claims and lower costs. In addition, when we have regional discussions, it helps to have the same risk manager assisting in efforts to work collaboratively.”
The division of regions is a function of the Authority’s regional risk manager model, with service delivery organized by geographical areas.
“From a coverage standpoint, growth spreads risk across a greater number of members and helps bring costs down,” said Lefmann. “While we have increased the size of the pool, it is important to maintain and develop successful, personal relationships with our current and new members.”
To this end, the Authority has expanded its regions from five to seven and made associated realignments in risk manager assignments. The new regional boundaries are, in part, defined by the areas in which the risk managers reside, so that they may live and work in the same region.
As the Authority’s regions have increased, so has the team.
“Recruiting and cultivating a secure, dependable team to serve our members is one of my most important responsibilities,” said Chief Executive Officer Jon Shull. “People are the most important part of our organization.”
The Authority is grateful to have hired three outstanding professionals selected from a robust pool of candidates based on their professional acumen and commitment to member service and careful vetting by a committee of member agency representatives.
“As a panelist for the recent risk manager recruitment, I was able to help shape the future of the Authority and provide input that will strengthen partnerships between risk managers and members,” said Garcia. “The countless opportunities that the Authority creates for member engagement provides value that cannot be duplicated. More than simply a member agency, we are a partner working toward a common goal.”
New Senior Risk Manager Toni Consolo, who joins the Authority from the Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Programs, shares the California JPIA’s commitment to collaboration as articulated by Garcia: “I want our members to know that I’m here as their partner to support them,” she said.
After earning a B.A. from the University of Michigan, Consolo started her career in risk management as a supervisor and computer coordinator for Sedgwick. She also has experience as an assistant vice president for Keenan & Associates and as a risk manager for the Montebello Unified School District and the Los Angeles Community College District.
“I started out in the workers’ compensation arena, on a claims desk,” she said. “My later specialization—school districts—led me to the public sector.”
Her area of service encompasses Authority members in Region 7, Coastal and Northwest L.A. County and South Ventura County, including the cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Camarillo, Hidden Hills, Lawndale, Malibu, Moorpark, Port Hueneme, and Westlake Village, as well as the Agoura Hills and Calabasas Community Center and the Ventura Port District.
In addition to professional expertise and experience, Consolo brings with her the added value of keen listening skills that she will apply to helping members navigate the rapidly changing landscape of COVID-19.
“The pandemic has brought a different dynamic to municipal risk management,” she said. “Agencies are expected to safely maintain operations and support the public, yet they are processing information and learning at the same time as their constituents. By listening more and talking less, I will strive to gain a better understanding of how I can best be of service to our members during this extraordinary time.”
“Toni is a great addition to the California JPIA team,” said Senior Risk Manager Maria Galvan, who is serving as Consolo’s staff mentor. “From day one, she has established relationships with her assigned members. Her research skills, extensive contractual risk transfer background, and other areas of expertise add to our risk management team and the service we provide our membership.”
Like Consolo, Senior Risk Manager Lucy Gonzalez brings significant expertise in preventing occurrences and reducing costs, with 22 years’ experience in workers’ compensation claims and safety program management across multiple industries. Her professional and educational background are in administrative studies, finance, workers’ compensation, ergonomics, and risk management.
Gonzalez became interested in the California JPIA because she believes in the Authority’s mission and wants to make a positive impact on the organization and the local governments it serves.
“Giving back and helping improve my community is a significant part of my values,” she said. “I love coming to work each day, knowing that by assisting my members I am helping to make a difference in my community and my members’ communities.”
Gonzalez will partner with Authority members in Region 3, North and South Orange County, including the cities of Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Villa Park, as well as Area E Disaster Management, the Orange County Council of Governments, Rossmoor Community Services District, and West Cities Communications Center.
“Lucy is a detail-oriented person,” says Senior Risk Manager Melaina Francis, who is serving as Gonzalez’s staff mentor. “She is focused on quickly learning all of the Authority’s processes and procedures to assist members to the best of her abilities. Lucy’s easy-going and calm demeanor, good sense of humor, and risk management knowledge all make her a welcome addition to our team!”
Asked about the biggest risk management challenge facing municipal organizations today, Gonzalez identified law enforcement and public safety, both their daily administrative and operational duties.
“Risk management in law enforcement encompasses policies and regulations for the protection of peace officers and their agencies from lawsuits,” she said. “Law enforcement personnel at all levels should see risk management efforts as doing what is right for the agency and the community.”
The Authority’s third new senior risk manager, Tony Leite, a longtime civil servant who began his career as a firefighter with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, shares Gonzalez’s interest in public safety.
“I’ve been on the side of public safety, even responding to 911 calls, so I can relate to member agencies and speak intelligently to their fire and police as it relates to emergency services.”
Leite joins the California JPIA from Sedgwick, where he was a senior manager for risk control. He previously has served in various risk management capacities for Poms & Associates, Bank of America, and Lockheed Martin. He also has taught fire technology in the Antelope Valley Union High School District for almost 20 years.
As a consultant with Poms & Associates, Leite had a past life in working with the Authority. That exposure to the organization and its staff piqued his interest in municipal risk management: “I developed an appreciation of the complex levels of risk that municipalities face,” he said.
“Tony adds a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Authority team,” says Senior Risk Manager Alex Mellor, who is serving as Leite’s staff mentor. “For example, his experience conducting mishap investigations for Lockheed Martin has allowed him to provide valuable feedback regarding our workers’ compensation root cause program. Tony is a valuable addition and I know that members will enjoy working with him.”
Leite’s service area, Region 6, includes East L.A. County, San Bernardino County, and the Eastern Sierras. He will work with members including the cities of Apple Valley, Big Bear Lake, Bishop, Chino Hills, Claremont, Diamond Bar, Grand Terrace, La Habra Heights, La Puente, La Verne, Loma Linda, Mammoth Lakes, Needles, Santa Fe Springs, Walnut, and West Covina, as well as the Big Bear City Community Services District, Big Bear Fire Authority, Eastern Sierra Transportation Authority, and Mountain Area Rapid Transit Authority.
In addition to managing regional member relations, including training, risk management, claims, and finance, the new senior risk managers all will lend subject matter expertise to the Authority’s holistic operations.
The California JPIA welcomes Toni, Lucy, and Tony.
Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 100 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive risk management training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at www.cjpia.org.