Celebrating the 2020 Partner Relations Advocate Awardees

Celebrating the 2020 Partner Relations Advocate Awardees

Each year the California Casualty Partner Relations Department recognizes employees for their commitment and dedication to serving our group partners by developing and nurturing relationships and creating leader advocates. In a year of so much uncertainty, the efforts of these individuals shined as they adapted to a virtual environment. Nominated by their fellow managers or their peers, the 2020 Partner Relations Advocate Award recipients were Angela Morgan (WA), Bonnie Harber (NJ), Brandon Watson (TX), Inez Morales (CA), Justine Sallee (IL), Michelle Hawkins (WA), Norma Alfaro (CA) and Stephanie Whitmore (CA). Read on to learn more about each award recipient and why they were nominated.



With nearly six years of experience, Bonnie Harber has become a permanent fixture at events throughout her territory in New Jersey and is well respected by association staff, leadership, fellow business partners, and her colleagues. Her dynamic personality, teamwork, and dedication have generated exceptional production results and strong relationships internally and externally. 




Michelle Hawkins’s manager noted that she is simply the best.  She completely understands advocacy and how leveraging her relationships publicly affects her field access, retention, business growth, and overall marketing plan.  It’s all intertwined and she knows exactly what she is doing.  




Stephanie Whitmore moved at the start of the pandemic from Iowa to California. She used her tenacity and creativity to introduce herself to group leaders in her new territory while she continued to be present virtually in her previous territory of Iowa and Nebraska. It was written of her, “The great thing is about her tenacity and creativity, is that she does not keep it to herself. She constantly shares what she is doing with her teammates and department”.




Countless hours were dedicated by Norma Alfaro to ensure her fellow California field team members staff and our partner, the California Teachers Association, had all they needed to make it through 2020 successfully. Norma was nominated from two different Partner Relations employees, with one noting, “With every challenge comes an opportunity to adapt, persevere and demonstrate one’s inner strengths.  In 2020, Norma proved that she could not only weather the storm but thrive.”




Inez Morales’s sense of responsibility towards her customers and her groups is amazing. Although she works with all our group partners in California, Inez was specifically nominated for her work as a PORAC Back-Up Account Manager.  Inez has a gift with relationships that have helped her to keep doors open to new opportunities and the ability to quickly address policyholder and group concerns. 




Brandon was nominated for his attitude of service and advocacy as a representative in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  Since he started with California Casualty in 2011 he has exhibited great advocate qualities.  He cares for the members of the associations we serve and it is welcomed, respected, and appreciated by the leaders and members of these associations.




As one of our field representatives in Illinois since 2012, Justine Sallee’s, ability to develop and maintain relationships has served her well.  She recognizes the value of service and care for the leadership and members of our partner associations.  This has enabled her to leverage these relationships to gain access, maintain visibility and generate policyholder growth in her territory.  She is a well-rounded field marketing manager and is liked and respected by her association leadership and members.




To round out the 2020 Partner Relations Advocate Award recipient is Angela Morgan. Angela has embraced and led the way in building sustainable business practices to market throughout her territory.  She is consistent and relentlessly couples short-term and long-term wins throughout her day.  She understands the need for the immediate while teeing up future relationships and opportunities to leverage.

Congratulations to all the recipients! 


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Meet the Awardees of Our Company’s Highest Honors

Meet the Awardees of Our Company’s Highest Honors

California Casualty recognizes employees who have made a significant impact on how our organization does business as your insurance partner with two annual awards.

The Thomas R. Brown Pride in the Code Award is a tribute to Tom Brown, recognizing employees for outstanding contributions that reflect one or more of the company’s five core values drawn from the California Casualty Code: Acting with Integrity, Fulfilling our Promises, Providing Exceptional Service, Pursuing Excellence through Learning and Working as a Team.

Throughout the year, employees can be nominated by their peers to receive a PRIDE in the Code award. Quarterly award winners are selected from among all employees receiving a PRIDE in the Code award during a particular quarter. The highlight each year is when one of the quarterly winners is selected for the annual Thomas R. Brown PRIDE in the Code award.

The Carl G. Brown Jr. Award of Excellence, considered California Casualty’s highest honor,  is given to those who exemplify the value of Carl G. Brown Jr. – author of the California Casualty Code – who, over his 40 years of service, tirelessly dedicated his time, talent and energy to the company and the community.

Each year, in keeping with Mr. Brown’s deep personal commitment to responsibility and achievement in both these areas, the award is presented to an employee in recognition of excellence in their contributions to California Casualty and their local community.

pride in the code

The 2020 recipient of the Thomas R. Brown Pride in the Code Award is Carleen N., Senior Communications Systems Analyst, for Providing Exceptional Service.

Carleen went above and beyond to help our employees work through phone and workspace issues at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was instrumental in assisting employees in many areas of the company to set up workspaces at home. Carleen solved numerous work-from-home phone issues, helped departments learn how to use our enterprise videoconferencing solution, and supported employees coming back into the office.

In addition to demonstrating the value of Providing Exceptional Service, Carleen is also someone who lives our core value of Working as a Team. One of her PRIDE in the Code nominators, Lisa P., said, “Carleen worked with so many employees with varying levels of system expertise. She was always patient and kind, with a positive attitude the entire time.” Another of her nominators, Greg F., added, “Carleen was willing to do whatever it took, working later in the evenings and on weekends as well!”

Managers and team leaders across the company recognize that Carleen’s expertise and dedication have helped their teams deliver for California Casualty’s policyholders in this difficult time, when nurses, law enforcement, firefighters, and educators are being stretched to do their jobs in ways that would have seemed unimaginable a year ago. Mike McCormick stated, “We have been able to continue to be available to our group members through it all because of Carleen’s responsiveness in working with our team!”

The Sales Leadership Team summed it up well: “We are so appreciative of Carleen and wanted to recognize her for the difference she makes. Thank you, Carleen!”


carl g brown award

The 2020 recipient of the Carl G. Brown Jr. Award of Excellence is Todd B., Senior Vice President-Underwriting Operations/ Analysis & Corporate Legal.

Todd started his CCMC career in the Colorado Service Center in 1998, excelling as a Sales Representative and as a Sales Team Manager. From 2003 to 2012, a period that included his election to Vice President in 2009, Todd had responsibility for various combinations of the following departments: Underwriting Operations, Service, Sales, and Direct Mail/Marketing Services. After a brief hiatus of just over one year as a self-employed entrepreneur, Todd returned to California Casualty in 2013 as Manager of Home Office Underwriting. Over the next few years, Todd gained responsibility for Underwriting Quality Assurance and Underwriting Operations, and he was re-elected Vice President in 2017. In 2020, Todd’s responsibilities were further expanded to add Corporate Legal and Licensing, and in December 2020 he was elected Senior Vice President.

Todd is a true champion of continuing education, personally earning seven insurance designations including his CPCU. He has successfully encouraged his staff to do the same as a way to increase their knowledge and elevate their expertise, through learning and obtaining the designations to reflect their achievements and their professionalism. On the application submitted for this award, Todd’s nominators stated, “With the value, he has set on education, it is no surprise that Underwriting has experienced a large number of employees receiving designations over the past few years with more in the works.” We are proud of the many employees in Underwriting and throughout the company who have risen to the challenge of boosting their knowledge and expertise, as California Casualty moves forward in a rapidly changing personal lines marketplace.

Todd is a “skilled and enthusiastic communicator” who is “able to gain buy-in by others for procedure changes and project implementations.” The key to his success is that his “openness to creative solutions is contagious and is a great gift Todd provides to those he interacts with.” Todd has always been open to new processes and innovations, leading or collaborating with others on many projects that have positively impacted California Casualty and how we do business. Todd is a bowhunter who has held leadership positions in organizations dedicated to conservation and record keeping. He has served as a director on the board of the Colorado Bowhunters Association, from which he received the 2018 CBA Bowhunter of the Year award, a lifetime achievement award, for his many hours of service and efforts. Todd has also served as a director of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society and of Pope & Young, the largest bowhunting organization in North America.

Please join us in congratulating Todd!


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Debbie Hunter-Ellis – 40 Years of California Casualty

Debbie Hunter-Ellis – 40 Years of California Casualty

40 years of California CasualtyAs 2020 comes to a close, so does a great career for Debbie Hunter-Ellis AVP- Customer Service Manager. Debbie celebrated her 40th anniversary with California Casualty in July and at the end of this year will celebrate her much-deserved retirement.

We recently had the pleasure to (virtually) sit down with Debbie and discuss her life and her career at California Casualty. Here’s what she told us:

“I was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana home to the 1989 hit movie “Steel Magnolias”. I was raised in a military family and lived most of my life in Northern California.  San Jose State University, home of the Spartans, is my alma mater. I graduated with a BA degree in Business Management. During college, I worked in the Career Center where I was responsible for organizing the on-campus interviews for graduates seeking employment with corporations in the Silicon Valley and Bay area region. This is where I came across California Casualty, who was recruiting college graduates. The family-owned business and their willingness to hire and train graduates fresh out of school was an attractive attribute.”

Debbie applied and soon started off as a Customer Service Representative in San Jose, where she learned about automobile and home insurance, and how to service customers on their policies.

After eight years in her Customer Service role, she was promoted to Customer Service Supervisor which quickly transitioned to a Customer Service Team Manager. At that time, she moved with California Casualty and had the honor to take part in the opening of our Colorado Springs Service Center.

Debbie said, “The opening of the Service Center was a rewarding experience. As a Customer Service Team Manager, I contributed to the development of processes and procedures, recruiting, guiding, and developing employees while meeting the customer and the company expectations.”  Debbie managed a team of 10 – 15 Customer Care Specialist for over 20 years. And each year her team excelled at providing quality customer experience to California Casualty’s affinity group members. “The Customer Service Team Manager position is where I established a solid foundation for continuous learning and leadership development.” she said, “Furthermore; this provided the opportunity for the Customer Service Department Manager where I have been in this leadership role for the past 7 years.”

It’s a very great and rare occurrence when an employee reaches a milestone as great as their 40-year mark. When asked about her past four decades with California Casualty, she said, “I have seen and experienced a lot of positive change during the past 40 years. We have really achieved great heights! It is rare to say you have only worked for one company in your career. I’m humbled and grateful for the amazing opportunity and experience with California Casualty.”

Debbie said she will miss the unique culture that has developed over the years, but the strong relationships and the day-to-day interactions with the Customer Service Management Team and employees will never be forgotten.

And the Customer Service Department will never forget the impact Debbie has had on them. Debbie’s friends and peers, Vice President of Customer Service, Daphne Pavone, and Senior Customer Service and Agency Services Team Manager, Bianca Odom, had a few parting words they wanted to say to, and on behalf of, Debbie as she gets closer to her well-deserved retirement day.

“Debbie Hunter-Ellis is a wonderful person and an amazing co-worker. She cares about her colleagues and has spent her career focused on delivering quality customer service and developing her people.  Debbie’s calm and professional demeanor makes her a natural ‘go-to’ for an additional and balanced perspective. I consider Debbie a colleague and a friend. Thank you, Debbie, it has been a true joy working with you! I wish you all of the best in this new chapter of life. -Daphne”

“Ever since I joined the Customer Service Team, Debbie has been a great mentor and friend. She has always been a leader that has demonstrated good judgment and sets an example for others to follow as she is hard-working, fair, honest, dependable, and understanding. I appreciate Debbie more than I could ever express and I’m sad to see her go; although I’m also very excited for this next step in her life.  Congratulations Debbie!  We will miss you! –Bianca”

In retirement, Debbie plans to spend her days traveling, enjoying outdoor activities, and exploring creative endeavors.

Enjoy every second of it, Debbie, you’ve earned it! We will all miss you and wish you the best. You’ll always be a part of the CalCas family; thank you for 40 years.

Debbie Hunter-Ellis – 40 Years of California Casualty

Arlene Brown – 50 Years of California Casualty

Arlene BrownThis afternoon Arlene Brown, California Casualty RUS Analyst, reaches a milestone in her career, that few ever see in their lifetime, as she celebrates her 50th anniversary as a full-time employee.

In recognition of this incredible achievement, Joe Volponi, President and CEO of California Casualty, honored Arlene in an email sent to all CalCas employees telling Arlene’s career story and highlighting the significant impact she has made at CalCas within her 50 years. Read an excerpt below.

“It is not often in this company (maybe never) that an employee reaches 50 years of service as a full-time employee. Arlene Brown will reach that incredible milestone and a well-deserved retirement on September 8th.

She started as a Coder, working with Assigned Risk paper files. She quickly progressed to become the Auto Coding Assistant Supervisor in charge of Assigned Risk and was given the nickname “Queen of Assigned Risk.” She worked with both agents, and customers, often remembering their names and policy numbers from year to year! Those were the days when every detail had to be transferred to a grid, which a keypunch operator entered. Rating was done by hand and with a 10 key calculator spitting out the answers on paper tape. Her other daily tool was a pro-rata wheel, a few relics of which still survive today, although they remain a mystery to those familiar with more modern devices.

Arlene’s reputation for accuracy followed her throughout her career. She was a strong underwriter who was frequently overheard teaching sales reps how to find the answer to their question in the underwriting manual (a large binder with hundreds of pages). Online reference tools didn’t exist back then, so it was a manual process. She didn’t just want to give an answer, but rather help them understand where to find the answer for next time.

Similar to the Guidewire conversion we are going through today, the company as gone through several system conversions in the span of 50 years. One such conversion to the Policy Management System (PMS), as part of that effort, she ultimately wrote much of the PMS manual that defined each field of entry into PMS. The effort of proofreading draft procedures for accuracy and consistency became known as “Arlene-a-sizing”.

Arlene was a founding member of the QAD team, a group formed to improve quality assurance of PMS (Series 2) entries. As things evolved, she was a natural to become part of the RUS team, when it was formed to oversee the automation of rating, underwriting, and system processing. She became an expert in writing QMF queries, and could apply them against different generations of the system since she was one of the few that had worked in all the different systems!

Aside from all her accomplishments on the insurance side of the business, she was a tireless worker on the In-Club committees that coordinated many employee events over the years. In addition to coordinating the details for these events, she put together photo albums to commemorate them.

Arlene considered California Casualty her family, and did everything in her power to bring success. In her half-century here, she’s touched many people in a variety of ways. People like her have made this company successful.”

Arlene’s successful career is full of many achievements, but one of her favorite memories in her time with CalCas is winning the well-deserved Carl G. Brown, Jr. Award of Excellence, which is an employee-nominated award given annually to an employee whose sustained excellent contribution to the company is matched by a substantial contribution to his or her community.

When asked what the secret is to her 50-year career, she says, “It’s true what ‘they’ say about loving what you do – the time just flies. When you love your job it leads to honing your skills, seeing opportunities to improve things (processes), and finding the needles in haystacks to resolve system/policy problems. That being said, I couldn’t do the job I’ve done without the support of my work family.”

And we couldn’t do it without you, Arlene. Congratulations, and thank you for all you have done for California Casualty. You have helped turn us into the company we are today. Your presence in the office will be missed each and every day. Have a great retirement!

Spotlighting the Faces Behind CalCas

Spotlighting the Faces Behind CalCas

It’s no secret; we have amazing employees at California Casualty. The Employee Spotlight is a series we created to highlight some of the talented individuals who are dedicated to making California Casualty a great company to do business with and a terrific place to work.

From human resource recruiters and learning and development trainers to claims adjusters, marketers, customer support specialists, underwriters, partner relations, insurance consultants, and beyond; we are one big family working together for a common goal – to serve you, our policyholders.

Below are just a few of our extraordinary team members who are continuously working to make sure our customers (and fellow employees) have a great experience with California Casualty.


Customer Care Specialist, Lori Ryan:

What made you want to work in Customer Service at California Casualty?

When I was applying for my job at California Casualty, I saw an exciting opportunity to work for a company that had “big corporation pay”, with the feel of a smaller “mom and pop” company, that was really focused on customer satisfaction and employee retention.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I enjoy the different ways in which I can impact my customers, whether it’s counseling them on coverage limits or just making the whole experience of dealing with insurance more enjoyable.

I LOVE working for California Casualty because I love our customers. We have such a unique and amazing customer base with our group members. I get to hear their stories of heroism, compassion, and commitment to community, all while helping them navigate and understand their insurance needs and how to protect their assets.

Tell us some fun facts about yourself!

I like to thrift shop and enjoy painting and repurposing old furniture.

I’m a transplant from Texas who is addicted to coffee and makeup.

I love my job so much, I commute 45 miles to work (one way) just to get here! During that drive, I like listening to podcasts about History, True Crime, and Philosophy


To read Lori’s Employee Spotlight click here.




Talent Acquisition Specialist, Cal Turner:

What made you want to work in Human Resources at California Casualty?

I wanted to work in this position because it makes such an impact on the company. Finding and selecting the right employees for all of our different positions is very challenging yet very rewarding. When you work hard with a candidate, build relationships, get them engaged in our organization and then watch them grow into their role and become a success, it is very rewarding.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I have many favorite things about my company. I am a proud employee – in staffing, you have to be.  A HUGE part of your job is selling the company to candidates who have never had any contact with us what-so-ever, and you have to truly love the organization you represent. Luckily, I work for the BEST business and it is very easy for me to do.

One thing I love about my company is all the different levels of management and how there is no division within the rest of the company. Everyone from the CEO to Executives to Upper Management are all warm and approachable people. We are all on the same playing field and it becomes obvious as we get to know each other. It is great to be in a company where everyone is connected that way.

I love the people I work with and the audience we represent. All of them. These are some of the best people in the business, and I love to see all the positive attitudes and appreciative people that I interact with each and every day.

Tell us some fun facts about yourself!

I like to run, do yoga, watch movies, and cook!

I have two awesome daughters who are also brilliant. One was passionate about becoming a lawyer and has recently passed the bar. She is now a Public Defender for the State of Colorado. My oldest daughter is a CPA for a respectable firm in Downtown Denver. I am very proud of both of them. They are the best thing I have ever done in my life.


To read Cal’s Employee Spotlight click here.




Personal Insurance Consultant, Kevin DeSousa:

What made you want to work as an Insurance Consultant at California Casualty?

I really just enjoy talking to people. It especially feels great when you’re also assisting a customer with a life necessity such as insurance.


What is your favorite part about your job?

Besides knowing that we’re helping our teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses!  I enjoy really getting to know our customers, I talk to each person on the phone like I’m talking to one of my family members.  I don’t want to under-insure my family and I also don’t want to over-insure my family; I want to make sure that everyone is paying for what they need to help take the best care of themselves as possible.


Tell us some fun facts about yourself!

I enjoy my family and my church family. Anytime we can all get together that is a good day!

I love going camping and enjoying the wilderness, I would say I go fishing, but I have yet to catch anything this season, so we’ll just skip that….

I also enjoy working on updating my house and working in my yard with my small farm.

 To read Kevin’s Employee Spotlight click here.





Social Media Marketer, Chloe Biancarelli:

What made you want to work in Social Media at California Casualty?

Well, when I first started at California Casualty I had taken a job as an Administrative Assistant for our Service Department.

I had big plans to work a more low-key job while I got my Masters in Marketing, and then I discovered that there was a Marketing position open here, and I had some experience, so I interviewed for it and the rest is history. Now, I’ve fallen in love with my job and I cannot imagine myself anywhere else.


What is your favorite part about your job?

There are so many things that I love about my job. Our audience, the creative freedom, my work family, all of it!\

There is no better feeling than giving back to the heroes in our community, my mom is a dispatcher, so I grew up always being around first responders and going to the sheriff’s office (I still do). AND my aunt and my brother’s girlfriend are also both Teachers. Any profession that puts someone else before themselves, will always have my gratitude and respect. I feel so good knowing that we are putting these heroes, and their needs, first here at CalCas – as they do for others.

Another reason I love my job is the complexity I have as a marketer. Social Media Marketing is often confused with just posting on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s SO much more. Aside from normal social duties, we run mini-campaigns, research and write blogs, communicate with our insured, partner with groups and individuals, strategize creative brand initiatives, sponsor events, design graphics, do video and editing, run our HR Linkedin account, and so much more. Every day is different, and because social is ever-changing, our calendar could literally change at the flip of a switch and you just have to roll with the punches. I love it!

And lastly my work family; we have our own little group of “creative weirdos” in the marketing department here at California Casualty. They make, even the most stressful day, enjoyable. AND we all are absolutely obsessed with our dogs – dog people are the best kind of people.


Tell us some fun facts about yourself!

I’m from Southeast Kansas, and I went to college at Pittsburg State University (Gooooo Rillas!).

I’m engaged and getting married in November! My fiancé surprised me by proposing in Seattle last fall in front of the Space Needle AND hired a photographer to capture the whole thing.

I LOVE Christmas and I’ve been to Rockefeller Center at Christmas time – it was amazing.

I will dance terribly to any song that is playing 100% of the time.



To read Chloe’s Employee Spotlight click here.



In our growing company of 700+ individuals, Employee Spotlights are posted weekly. Check them out for yourself by following us on LinkedIn at @California Casualty.

We Protect AmeriCAN Heroes – Together We CAN

day with firefighte


Together We CAN.

During these trying times, it’s important to know that you are not alone. You have a community of people behind you, encouraging and fighting for you.

Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals are leading the fight on the frontlines against COVID-19, stepping up heroically in the face of incredibly long hours, heartbreaking care cases, and increased personal risk. Peace officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency personnel are on the frontlines risking their own lives to keep our communities safe and in working order during this public health crisis. While teachers, school administrators, and education support professionals have completely changed their teaching strategies to accommodate students so they can stay safe at home and finish out the rest of the school year virtually.

We have never been more thankful for our everyday heroes than we are right now.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned our daily lives upside down, but when we come together as a community- as neighbors, as family, as friends -we are unstoppable. We CAN get through this and we WILL. Together we CAN.


We’d like to extend an extra special thanks to the Firefighters, Police Officers, Teachers, and Nurses who took the time to participate in our Together We CAN video. It is a privilege to hear about your daily experiences throughout the pandemic, firsthand. We appreciate your courage and dedication to helping keep us safe now, more than ever. Thank you.


This video is brought to you by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com. Be sure to check out our Heroes series at https://mycalcas.com/leoheroesvideo/ or visit California Casualty’s YouTube Channel.

The Heroes Video Series was filmed and produced by Wide Awake Films.
If you’re not already following California Casualty, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn.
At California Casualty, our mission is to provide trusted, personalized auto and home insurance protection.  exclusively for educators, law enforcement, nurses and firefighters—those who protect, strengthen and enhance the quality of life in American communities.

California Casualty

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