The beginning of March brought the conclusion of another Excellence Conference. Again this year, we saw record attendance with close to 900 people. It was wonderful to see so many people and have the hallways filled with folks from the global CPSE community.

Joint Meetings

The CPSE Board of Directors and the commissioners from the Commission for Professional Credentialing (CPC) and the Commission for Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) met prior to the start of conference. Th meeting provided an opportunity for the Board and Commissions to brief each other on their activities as well as hear from the CPSE staff on corporate updates.

It was also the time to recognize a few Board and Commission members for their leadership and volunteer service to the organization.

CPC Chair Toni Washington thanking City of Redwood City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz for her role as a CPC Commissioner. Diaz has moved on to become a member of the CPSE Board of Directors.

CPSE President Mary Cameli thanking retired Board Member Tom Harmer for his service on the CPSE Board.

CPC Chair Toni Washington thanking retired CPC Commissioner Chris Christopoulos for his service on the CPC Commission.


While education is the main focus of the Excellence Conference, the networking that happens, whether it is in the hallways, over lunch, or in meetings, is invaluable. It is a great chance to share and learn tips and ideas on the accreditation and credentialing process.

Following a tradition started last year, CPSE held the First Timers reception on Monday evening. It allowed those attending for the first time to meet and interact with each other as well as the CPSE leadership and staff. It was a great time to ask questions, learn more about CPSE, and put faces to the names that they may have been hearing about.

Opening Session

Florida State Fire Marshal Rice (CFO)

The Orange County Honor Guard started the events with the presentation of the colors and singing of the national anthem. Florida State Fire Marshal JoAnne Rice (CFO) welcomed everyone to the conference and gave a few opening remarks addressing the theme of the conference – Opportunity – Challenge – Change.

CPSE Board President Mary Cameli

Newly elected CPSE Board President, Chief Mary Cameli (CFO) from Mesa Fire and Medical Department kicked off the opening ceremony. Chief Cameli began by taking a few minutes to talk about CPSE’s vision, mission, and values. She shared the Board adoption of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Values Statement (click here to learn more about CPSE’s DEI journey). And lastly, she shared some of the many accomplishments of CPSE had in 2022, including achieving 300 CFAI accredited agencies and launching the Public Information Officer (PIO) designation.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.

Throughout the opening session, Chief Cameli was joined on stage by CPSE CEO Preet Bassi, CPC Chair Toni Washington (CFO), and CFAI Chair Steve Dirksen (CFO).


Always a high point of the opening session is the presentation of the annual CPSE awards to those that have made a difference within their organizations and communities.

Ray Picard Award

The recipient of the 2023 CPSE Ray Picard Award is Quality Assurance and Accreditation Strategist Gwen Nieuwdorp with the Calgary Fire Department in Alberta, Canada, a CFAI accredited agency that is heading into its sixth accreditation cycle.

As a member of the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) – the first accredited agency in Canada – for over 34 years, Ms. Nieuwdorp has been involved with accreditation from the beginning.  Her passion for this work is described by her colleagues as “contagious” and she is recognized as the department’s subject matter expert for “all aspects of accreditation” and continues to lead the team as they embrace continuous improvement. As a long-time member of the department, she exemplifies the values of CFD – Pride, Teamwork, Respect, and Professionalism.  She also carries this commitment with her peers in Canada and other countries, serving as a champion of the accreditation process and as a mentor to numerous departments. Gwen exemplifies the spirit of Ray Picard in all that she does for both Calgary Fire Department and beyond.

Ronny Jack Coleman Leadership Legacy Award

Interim Fire Chief Ben Perry (CFO) and CPC Chair Toni Washington (CFO)

Interim Fire Chief Ben Perry, CFO, Joint Base San Antonio Fire and Emergency Services, Texas, is this year’s recipient of the Ronny Jack Coleman Leadership Legacy Award. Chief Perry is a strong proponent of the importance and value of credentialing in professional development, and continually mentors members of the Air Force in helping them achieve designation. In addition, he hosts a regular podcast that reaches all of the Air Force Fire Emergency Services, and beyond, talking with many guests about the impact credentialing has on departments, individuals, and their careers. He is working towards becoming a CPC Peer Reviewer and a CFAI Peer Assessor.

Randy R. Bruegman Agency Innovation Award

Lieutenant Daniel Myers, Care Team Coordinator Jelisa Turner, and CPSE President Mary Cameli

The recipient of the 2023 Randy R. Bruegman Agency Innovation Award is the Henrico County, Virginia, Division of Fire for their Community, Assistance, Resources, and Education (CARE) Team. This team strives to increase knowledge and accessibility of services and support for community members to address unmet needs. This is accomplished by collaborating with various county departments and community partners to connect citizens with the appropriate resources. The program has had hundreds of interactions per month along with a commensurate reduction in response to high-frequency callers. It has also resulted in a boost in morale as those in the field feel heard and can see how they are making a difference in the community beyond their 911 response. Henrico County Division of Fire has several non-traditional teams, of which the CARE Team is one, and believes that this is the future of the fire service to address an aging and evolving community.

Cliff Jones Ambassador Award

Chief Will Gray (CFO), CPSE CEO Preet Bassi, and Houston Accreditation Manager Leonard Chan

This year the CPSE staff had a difficult time selecting just one award recipient. The award goes to two individuals equally deserving.

Leonard N. Chan is the accreditation manager for the Houston Fire Department, Texas and previously served in a similar role with Cedar Park Fire Department. He currently serves as the chair of the Texas Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) Consortium. As of summer 2022, he has been assigned and completed ten peer assessments for CPSE. Leonard also served as the Chair for the 2022 CPSE Excellence Conference Education Planning Committee and has presented on accreditation topics.

Will Gray, CFO is the Fire Chief for Boulder City Fire Department, Nevada. He has been very involved in the accreditation process serving as the founding member and first coordinator of both the Rocky Mountain Accreditation and Credentialing Consortium and the Nevada Accreditation and Credentialing Consortium. Will became a peer assessor for the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) and completed five peer team site visits prior to becoming a team leader. He has led thirteen site visits across the United States and in Canada. He served as a team leader mentor and as a formal agency mentor for different departments seeking accreditation. While with the Rocky Mountain Consortium Group, he led the credentialing mentoring committee.

Michael Worthington Scholarship

In 2016, CPSE created the Michael Worthington Scholarship in continued remembrance of our long time Board member and friend, who passed away the previous year. As Mike exemplified continuous improvement and encouraged others to constantly grow and improve, we have committed to awarding up to five scholarships annually to active fire/EMS members serving at the Company Officer level. Scholarship recipients receive the FO designation, a waiver of the initial designation fee, and complimentary registration to the Excellence Conference.

This year’s five recipients were:

  • Captain Rommie Duckworth, Town of Ridgefield (CT) Fire Department
  • Captain Joseph Legg, Fort Bragg (NC) Fire and Emergency Services
  • Firefighter/Paramedic Joshua Schut, West Des Moines (IA) Fire Department
  • Lieutenant/Paramedic Tamar Stadel, Rapid City (SD) Fire Department
  • Lieutenant Erin Stehle, Harrisonburg (VA) Fire Department

Captain Rommie Duckworth

Captain Joseph Legg

Firefighter/Paramedic Joshua Schut

Lieutenant/Paramedic Tamar Stadel

Lieutenant Erin Stehle


NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki and CPSE Board President Mary Cameli (CFO)

CPSE has been a longtime supporter of the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation (NFFF). Last year was the CPSE’s 25th anniversary, and in recognition of this milestone CPSE set the goal of raising $25,000 for the foundation. Members of the CPSE community generously donated $10,000 to this worthy cause and CPSE provided the additional $15,000 to reach the goal. President Cameli presented longtime and retiring NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki (CFO) with a $25,000 check.

CPSE plans to contribute to the foundation $20 for each paid registration of the 2023 CPSE Excellence Conference.


Chief Matt Pegg, Toronto Fire Services

The keynote presentation was given by Chief Matt Pegg from Toronto Fire Services. Chief Pegg provided a unique perspective of the impact of the Covid lockdown on his personal and professional life. As the COVID-19 Incident Commander for the city of Toronto during this public health emergency, he was isolated in a hotel room for months. He used this time to keep meticulous notes, which resulted in a presentation titled “Good Sleep Requires Shiny Shoes – and other life and leadership lessons learned the hard way.”

Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell

U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell

U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell announced the USFA’s plan to update the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), which she described as a need that is long overdue. For the next two years, significant changes will be made to the system, providing a much greater range of capabilities for the entire fire service. CPSE was honored to have Dr. Moore-Merrell present this information for the first time at the CPSE Excellence Conference.

CFAI Hearings

The Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) held the spring public hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week. A total of 29 agencies appeared before the Commission, including ten first time agencies. Congratulations to everyone who appeared before the Commission. All agencies were awarded accreditation or were re-accredited.


What CPSE does in the world of accreditation and credentialing would not be possible without the cadre of volunteers that provide thousands of hours of support. This includes site visits, reviewing designation portfolios, and serving as subject matter experts to CPSE. During the annual Volunteer Recognition Breakfast, we acknowledged how much, as an organization, we appreciate all that they do to support our mission.


Year over year, we hear from attendees that the number one reason they attend the Excellence Conference is for the educational opportunities. This year we held 75 sessions in five different tracks: Accreditation, Credentialing, Leadership, Challenges to Opportunities, and Changing for Improvement.

Consortium Meetings

The Excellence Conference provides the opportunity for members of the State and Regional Consortiums to meet, not only with each other but also with CPSE staff. Eleven of the 19 consortium groups took advantage of meeting in-person.  


A huge thank you to all the Excellence Conference sponsors and exhibitors. The exhibit hall was open Tuesday and Wednesday for attendees to evaluate products and services that can improve efficiencies within their department. Some of the sponsors took advantage of providing an in-depth presentation during the Technology Solutions sessions on Tuesday. Other sponsors have opted to present a live webinar later this year. Look for additional information on dates and details. Click here to learn more about all the CPSE sponsors and exhibitors.


We are busy working on finalizing the dates and location for the 2024 CPSE Excellence Conference. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay up to date. See you in 2024!