GOVERNING Announces 2015 Public Officials of the Year
GOVERNING Announces 2015 Public Officials of the Year
Top State and Local Leaders Honored in 24th Annual Awards Program
WASHINGTON, DC (Nov. 10, 2015) – GOVERNING today announced the nine public officials who are being honored as the year's most outstanding leaders in state and local government.
“We’re thrilled to be recognizing such remarkable officials,” said GOVERNING Executive Editor Zach Patton. “These outstanding men and women are tremendous examples of the power of public service, especially at the state and local level.”
Now in its 24th year, the annual Public Officials of the Year program honors leaders from state, city and county government who exemplify the ideals of public service. “We are all too aware of the daunting challenges facing many of our states and localities and the people who live in them,” said GOVERNING Publisher Mark Funkhouser. “But this year’s award recipients inspire me with great optimism, showing how determined leadership can address even the steepest challenges.”
GOVERNING’s 2015 Public Officials of the Year include:
- California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. When Brown returned for a third tour of duty as governor in 2011, California was a budgetary mess, with a $26 billion deficit, on the brink of a fiscal meltdown. Brown has gotten California back on its feet with an $8 billion budget surplus, a windfall he’s spending cautiously and wisely. He’s made tough decisions in response to the state’s water shortages, including a $7.5 billion bond last fall and a mandate this spring to cut water use by 25 percent.
- New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu. New Orleans was at a pivotal moment in history when Landrieu took office in 2010. The city was still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina, and City Hall was still dealing with long-entrenched management problems. Under Landrieu’s leadership, the city is returning even stronger than before the storm. He professionalized municipal staff and got politics out of city contracts. He’s helped secure $100 million worth of help from the federal government and national philanthropic groups. Today, new businesses are opening in New Orleans at double the rate before the storm; the city has a thriving tech startup scene and has become a major magnet for young people with college degrees. Landrieu says it’s time for the people who left because of Katrina to come home; he’s made New Orleans a place worth coming home to.
- Prince George’s County, Md., County Executive Rushern Baker III. Five years ago, Prince George’s was moving in the wrong direction. Crime was a problem, and the county had largely been left out of the economic boom seen in other suburban counties outside Washington, D.C. Even worse, Baker’s predecessor was imprisoned for bribery and corruption. Today things are looking up, thanks to Baker’s capable leadership. Since he took office in 2010, crime is down: Homicides fell 40 percent from 2010 to 2014, due in large part to a police hot-spotting initiative that Baker put in place. And economic development is up: After struggling for years to attract commercial investment, Prince George’s has pulled in more than $6 billion since Baker took office. Most crucially, he’s restored a sense of pride and good governance to this county of nearly a million residents.
- Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers. At a time when split state legislatures have had trouble getting things done, lawmakers in Kentucky—with a Republican Senate, a Democratic House and a Democratic governor—have accomplished quite a lot. That’s due in large part to Stivers, who has served as Senate president since 2013. He’s been instrumental in passing bipartisan legislation and forging legislative compromises. Kentucky’s unusually productive session this year produced new legislation on issues such as job training, anti-drug legislation and changing the gas-tax formula.
- Wayne County, Mich., County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. In 2009, more than 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered gathering dust in a Detroit police storage facility. Worthy immediately set out to address that tragic backlog and process the long-dormant cases, some of which were decades old. Some 10,000 of the kits have now been tested, yielding 549 suspected serial offenders across the country and 25 convictions. Thanks to budget cuts, Worthy has had to work hard to secure federal grants, and even conduct her own fundraising efforts, to ensure the tests continued to be processed. Her outstanding efforts have become a model for other cities. Worthy has proven herself a tough prosecutor in other ways, such as when she unflinchingly investigated former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff for misdeeds in office, which ultimately led to Kilpatrick’s conviction.
- Los Angeles Police Department Commander Phil Tingirides and Sergeant Emada Tingirides. As recent events from Ferguson to Baltimore to Staten Island have made clear, cities are struggling to get it right on community-police relations. One outstanding model in Los Angeles’ troubled Watts neighborhood provides hope. Since 2011, two LAPD officers—Phil and Emada Tingirides—have pioneered the Community Safety Partnership program, a collaboration with the city Housing Authority that seeks to improve relations between police and residents of public housing projects in Watts. Their efforts have built trust in police and caused crime to plummet: Shootings by youths fell by two-thirds, and homicides dropped nearly to zero in the housing developments where the program has been in place.
- New York Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson. At $50 billion a year, New York’s spending on Medicaid in 2011 was the highest in the nation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted a redesign, and Helgerson has led it, instituting a global cap on spending and living within it; getting patients into models of care led by teams of doctors accountable for whole groups; and doing some outside-the-box thinking on the social determinants of health, like supportive housing. Since 2009, spending per patient has fallen steadily, to 2003 levels, and overall spending has actually declined. That’s all remarkable on its own, but now Helgerson is also launching what is arguably the largest Medicaid overhaul ever, in any state. At a time when out-of-control health-care costs demand bold ideas and new thinking, Helgerson is leading the way.
- Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority CEO & General Manager Joseph Calabrese. Bus rapid transit systems have helped shape cities across the globe, but in many American cities this effective public transportation option is implemented in a tepid, watered-down way. Not so in Cleveland, where Calabrese has overseen the development of one of the most robust BRT lines in the world. With dedicated lanes, raised platforms and 60-foot-long vehicles, it’s closer to light rail than to a traditional bus. Since it first opened eight years ago, the city’s first BRT line has spurred $6 billion in economic development along its nine-mile route. Encouraged by that success, Calabrese’s agency opened a second line last December. It’s a clear indication that with Calabrese’s “do it right or not at all” approach, public transit can be a truly transformative force.
Public Officials of the Year are selected from nominations submitted by readers, experts in the public and private sectors and the GOVERNING editorial team. Among the qualities recognized are leadership, courage, innovation, creativity and good management. Award winners are profiled in the December issue of the magazine and on governing.com/poy. They will be honored at a dinner at the historic Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. on December 2.
Since 1987, GOVERNING in the States and Localities has provided independent, nonpartisan coverage of state and local government. GOVERNING is a division of e.Republic, a national publishing, event and research company focused on smart media for public sector innovation. Learn more about the 2015 class of Public Officials of the Year at www.governing.com/poy
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