2017 Navigator Award Finalists: State and Local Executive LeadershipStart
As we continue to roll out our 50 finalists from the Route Fifty Navigator Awards program, we’re excited to announce the next group of 10, which are individual and team finalists in the State and Local Government Executive Leadership category.
Click through this slideshow to learn about the State and Local Government Executive Leadership Navigator Award finalists!
- Planning for a More Resilient and Affordable City
- Fostering Innovation and Economic Development in Appalachia
- A Lieutenant Governor Dedicated to Bringing Her State’s Performance to New Heights
- Starry-Eyed, Focused Squarely on Florida’s Space Coast Economy
- Using Priority-Based Budgeting to Improve Fire Service Delivery
- Facing Difficult Budget Math and Difficult Decisions in Alaska
- A Mayor Putting Equity and Inclusion in Local Government Front and Center
- In America’s Roundabout Capital, a Mayor Takes a Good Idea and Repeats It
- Shaping Efforts to Improve Guardianship Systems
- Taking a Local Approach to Narrowing the Gender Pay Gap
Planning for a More Resilient and Affordable City
Mayor Coral Evans is helping to lead Northern Arizona’s largest city as it moves through an era of growth and challenges with affordability. “The nickname we have is ‘poverty with a view.’ What kind of quality of life is that? People working two and three jobs just to stay in this town,” Evans told Route Fifty earlier this year. “How resilient and how sustainable is that?”
Located about 150 miles north of Phoenix, Flagstaff is known for striking natural scenery and easy access to the outdoors. It is situated amid the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. The population climbed to about 71,400 last year, from around 66,000 in 2010.
Evans has only been in her current position for less than a year. But she previously served two terms on the City Council. She and other city leaders recently shepherded forward a plan to develop new affordable housing sites in the city. The mayor is also focusing her attention on a part of town where flood risks would go down as a result of a planned flood control project on the Rio de Flag river. Evans is supporting efforts to educate homeowners in that area, some of them lower-income, about how much their property could be worth given the reduced flood risk—putting those residents in a potentially stronger position if they decide to sell their homes.
The way the mayor sees it, her hometown has about five to 10 years to figure out if it will become more like Aspen or Vail, Colorado, a city better suited for those who are wealthy, than residents with more modest incomes. “As the mayor of Flagstaff that’s not what I want it to be,” she said. “I want my daughter to be able to live there.”
Route Fifty is pleased to recognize Mayor Coral Evans as one of our 50 Navigator Award finalists.
Fostering Innovation and Economic Development in Appalachia
Jack Kennedy has taken a lead role in trying to turn southwest Virginia into a hub for the aerial drone industry. The clerk of the Wise County and City of Norton Circuit Court has also been a staunch advocate for a variety of other economic development efforts in the region.
“Innovation can come from the strangest of places,” he told Route Fifty last year. Asked what prompted him to take action to try to boost local economic development, he replied: “The realization that I'm seeing my community dying around me and I need to do something about it.”
Wise County, like other parts of Appalachia, has been hard-hit by declines in coal mining, which underpinned the local economy for decades. In addition to drones, cybersecurity and data centers are two other sectors where Kennedy and others see opportunities for growth.
The county recently attracted a $65 million data center project. And, in recent years, Mountain Empire Community College, in Big Stone Gap, has established an unmanned aerial vehicle curriculum, and companies have turned to Lonesome Pine Airport as a site for drone tests. Kennedy believes training qualified unmanned aerial vehicle pilots and others who can work in the industry will be key to drawing drone-related businesses to the region.
“If you’re looking for an example of how a down-on-its-luck community can create an entirely new economy, then we have the perfect example for you: Wise County,” The Roanoke Times wrote in an editorial earlier this year. “To be sure, Wise County hasn’t created that new economy yet. Then again, it took decades to turn the pine forests of North Carolina into the Research Triangle or the orchards of the Santa Clara Valley into Silicon Valley.”
If Wise County, Virginia pulls off a similar transition, Kennedy will undoubtedly be one of the people to thank. Route Fifty is pleased to recognize him as one of our 50 Navigator Award finalists.
A Lieutenant Governor Dedicated to Bringing Her State’s Performance to New Heights
Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne has perhaps the largest portfolio for a state’s second in command: improving state government as the Chief Operating Officer by building a customer service driven government fueled by evidence-based practices.
One of only two LGs appointed by a governor in Colorado’s history, Gov. John Hickenlooper hatched the idea of Lynne holding a hybrid operations role when he asked her to be his No. 2 back in 2016. Under her role as COO of Colorado, cabinet officials are accountable to Lynne for shortening wait times, reducing backlogs and improving the quality of services.
Lynne was a widely respected healthcare executive (one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare nationwide) who also had 20 years of public service in New York City’s government under her belt, making her a unique fit for a unique role.
“I really believe it’s important to focus on our customer—that’s 5.5 million people in the state, it’s our legislators, it’s other levels of government that we delegate services to, and it’s each other,” Lynne explained at the April Route Fifty Roadshow stop in Denver.
With that guiding principle and a relentless dedication to process improvement, Lynne, her staff, and the public servants of Colorado have made significant accomplishments. Customer satisfaction at the Department of Labor and Employment has risen from 50 percent to above 90 percent. Pharmacist licenses that used to take 144 days to process in Colorado are now approved in 18 days. The Department of Public Health and Environment eliminated a backlog of 600 providers seeking connectivity to the immunization registry, reducing the process from 9.5 months to 4 months. The Office of Information Technology reduced system security risks by half while achieving a 98 percent service excellence rating.
All goals are tracked on a governor’s dashboard that anyone of the state’s ‘customers’ can read and understand.
Few are driven to results quite like Lynne—and apparently it doesn’t stop with her professional life. Lynne has reached the summit of all 54 Colorado ‘fourteeners’—peaks over 14,000 feet, not to mention three international peaks over 18,000 feet.
Her energy and drive is also clearly infectious among her staff. It is evident in the work they have achieved over the past year and a half, as well as the fact that this summer they joined her to climb one of Colorado’s fourteeners, many summiting a 14,000-foot peak for the first time.
For her passionate pursuit of results on behalf of the people of Colorado, Route Fifty is pleased to name Lynne as a Navigator Award finalist in the State and Local Executive Leadership category.
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Starry-Eyed, Focused Squarely on Florida’s Space Coast Economy
Few states have more credentials when it comes to space travel than Florida. Home to the Cape Canaveral and the “Space Coast,” the state was the nation’s gateway to our solar system from Project Mercury in 1961 until the shuttle programs ended in 2011.
When the shuttle program was ending, many believed it would officially shutter the space industry in Florida altogether. The Guardian announced during the last shuttle mission that July that “when Atlantis returns to Earth … another 2,000 Kennedy Space Centre employees will be laid off, bringing job losses from the shuttle programme close to 10,000.”
As a major economic driver for the state and region, the worst was feared. The state had a plan that had been in the works since 2004 when then-President George W. Bush announced that the shuttle was to be retired, but those plans were challenged by the great recession that hit job growth just when the region needed it most.
Enter Space Florida and its president and CEO Frank DiBello. Space Florida serves as the state’s “spaceport authority,” an independent special district dedicated to aerospace economic development.
With the backing of the state government and local partners, DiBello and Space Florida have not only maintained the Florida’s legacy as the nation’s historic gateway to space travel, but maintained its place for our future beyond our planet.
DiBello was perhaps the perfect man to lead the charge, having founded KPMG’s Space Industry Practice and run a venture capital firm focused on finding commercial applications for defense and space-based technologies.
With DiBello at the helm, and the support of state and local economic development agencies, the region deliberately moved away from both its reliance on NASA and its sole mission as a launch site, and the private sector has adopted the region as its base for extraterrestrial operations.
Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is launching—and landing—along Florida’s Space Coast. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin’s assembly facility, rockets and launch pads are also centered in the area. Not to be outdone by new entries into the market, Airbus, Lockheed and Boeing are all using the area for satellite or space capsule construction.
Embraer, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are also tapping into the area’s workforce expertise for earthbound flight programs.
For his role in rallying the Space Coast’s economic base and ensuring its security for the future, Route Fifty is pleased to name DiBello as a Navigator Award finalist in the State and Local Executive Leadership category.
Using Priority-Based Budgeting to Improve Fire Service Delivery
Erik Keck arrived in Englewood, Colorado in 2014 with the city’s 108-year-old fire department running a combined operational and capital budget deficit of $18.6 million.
The city manager made a difficult decision to pursue a plan where neighboring Denver would provide fire and emergency services to Englewood and its 30,255 residents. It’s a politically charged issue most city leaders and elected officials would avoid, but a move that Keck made with the support of a majority of his City Council.
The move, which emerged through a strategy called priority-based budgeting, has saved the city $3.3 million out of its $99 million budget, and a proposed tax increase to preserve the former department was avoided. Emergency response times are now shorter and equipment was modernized, officials say. Most of Englewood’s firefighters transitioned to Denver’s force with compensation parity guaranteed.
Keck, who previously served as city administrator in Post Falls, Idaho, built support for the proposal in Englewood by providing hard data that underscored the challenge, presented well thought-out alternatives to address the issue and convinced elected officials to move forward with a controversial plan that has ended up working out.
We’re pleased to include Keck as one of our 10 Navigator Award finalists in the State and Local Executive Leadership category.
Facing Difficult Budget Math and Difficult Decisions in Alaska
Leaders in Alaska have been facing plenty of difficult budget decisions in recent years as dropping oil prices and shifts in the global energy market have taken their toll on state revenue.
Oil has been the state’s lifeblood for years, and Alaska residents receive annual dividends through the state’s Alaska Permanent Fund. With more uncertain budgetary waters ahead, the state has grappled with cutting back on what Alaskans get through the dividend.
Gov. Bill Walker, an Independent, has made it clear: "If we don't make a change on the dividend program, it goes away in four years," he said during a news conference in June 2016, announcing a handful of vetoes to state spending plans, which included a cut that capped dividends at $1,000.
Budget restructuring this year saw dividends increased to $1,100, a $1.7 billion decrease in operations and a 43 percent spending drop across the board—part of Walker’s efforts to craft a sustainable fiscal plan that isn’t as dependent on the price of oil.
Walker sees infrastructure and resource development as critical to that aim, as well as increased tourism.
The road to fiscal stability in Alaska isn’t easy. And June’s compromise doesn’t do much to solve the state’s long-term budget challenges. All of this has required Walker, a Republican-turned-Independent, to look for solutions aimed at transcending traditional partisan divisions.
Ask Walker about about his biggest accomplishment to date however, and he’ll likely say Medicaid expansion, which extended health insurance to 30,000 Alaskans. Walker recently joined a bipartisan group of eight governors asking President Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress to help stabilize the individual health insurance market, making it more affordable. Their letter asks for cost-sharing reduction payments and the establishment of a temporary stability fund to finance reinsurance funds or similar efforts to reduce premiums and limit insurer losses for providing coverage.
“Alaskans face the highest health care costs in the country,” Walker said, according to The Cordova Times. “Thanks to my team’s out-of-the-box thinking, premiums in the individual market are projected to decrease 20 percent in Alaska. But there’s more work to do.”
Indeed there is. And thanks to Walker’s desire to find compromise and ability to be open and frank about the daunting challenges ahead, Alaska has a better shot at finding a more stable fiscal footing. Route Fifty is pleased to include Gov. Walker as a Navigator Award finalist in the State and Local Executive Leadership category.
A Mayor Putting Equity and Inclusion in Local Government Front and Center
The mayor of Michigan’s second-largest municipality has a great story to tell about her city. Grand Rapids has seen tremendous growth in recent years, benefits from a diversified economic base, has an active downtown area, revitalizing neighborhoods, great local arts and dining and a robust craft brewing scene. And it’s all a short drive from the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline.
It’s not necessarily the doom-and-gloom type of story people outside Michigan sometimes associate with the Great Lakes State.
We heard this first hand from Mayor Rosalynn Bliss at a Route Fifty Roadshow event this spring in Seattle, where Bliss was one of three mayors on stage discussing her city’s work with the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use, a program jointly run by the National League of Cities and Urban Land Institute. Each year, the Rose Center works with teams from four cities—the other three for 2016-17 class are Anchorage, San José and Washington, D.C.—lending expertise and insights on local land-use challenges. This year, Rose Center fellowship cities have been paying close attention to equity and inclusion when it comes to their local projects.
It’s a theme that Mayor Bliss talks about regularly. For all of the ongoing prosperity in Grand Rapids, longstanding socioeconomic disparities persist. Poverty has grown faster across greater Grand Rapids in recent years than it did in Detroit. The local unemployment rate exceeds 25 percent for Latinos and 50 percent for African-American residents.
Mayor Bliss worked with the Center for Social Inclusion to baseline equity conditions using data and to build the case for making equity a local policy priority. Based on research by the National Equity Atlas, the metro Grand Rapids economy would generate $3.3 billion more annually absent existing racial income gaps. As the community becomes more diverse, local leaders fear that the costs of inequity—low wages, decreased workforce skill, and reduced purchasing power to cite a few indicators—will only grow.
Bliss, who in 2016 became the first woman elected mayor in Grand Rapids, served as a city commissioner for 10 years and has an academic background in social work, criminal justice and psychology and believes that local government needs to reflect growing diversity of the communities they serve. Route Fifty is pleased to include Mayor Bliss as one of our 10 Navigator Award finalists in the State and Local Executive Leadership category.
In America’s Roundabout Capital, a Mayor Takes a Good Idea and Repeats It
Jim Brainard, a Republican who has been Carmel, Indiana’s longest-serving mayor, is among those lucky city hall leaders who has been able to implement a relatively simple idea repeatedly over the course of many years and can point to ongoing, tangible quality-of-life improvements, environmental benefits and budget savings.
When the attorney first took office in 1996, the mayor pushed a plan to convert one intersection in the Indianapolis-area suburb into a roundabout. It was a relatively unknown traffic feature in the Midwest and elsewhere in the United States, though common in Europe. Roundabouts, which eliminate the need for signaled intersections or four-way stops, allow traffic to flow more smoothly and safely through.
In subsequent years, Brainerd’s administration added more roundabouts—there are 102 of them currently across Carmel, more than any other U.S. city—educating the public through effective community outreach and winning over skeptics in the process. He’s been previously recognized for his efforts nationally, has served on the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience under President Obama and as a trustee with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Roundabouts can reduce traffic fatalities by 90 percent, injury accidents by 80 percent and accidents overall by 40 percent. They’re also are no-brainers when it comes to saving money. Building a roundabout is $150,000 less expensive than building and maintaining a signalized intersection.
They’re more environmentally friendly, too. Federal highway studies have shown savings of 24,000 gallons of gas per year per roundabout since traffic moves more smoothly and rates of car idling are greatly reduced.
The roundabouts have become a major feature in the fast-growing city, located about 15 miles north of downtown Indianapolis. In 1996, Carmel had 30,000 residents. Today, there’s an estimated population of more than 90,000 residents. The city’s growth has in some ways mirrored the roundabout expansion, led by a mayor who has taken a good idea and continued to deliver on it over many years.
Route Fifty is pleased to include Mayor Brainard as one of our 10 Navigator Award finalists in the State and Local Executive Leadership category.
Shaping Efforts to Improve Guardianship Systems
Since taking office in 2004 as clerk, Sharon Bock has made it her mission to improve the ways Palm Beach County identifies fraud, waste and government inefficiencies. As part of that work, Bock has transformed her county’s process for overseeing guardianship for the elderly. The results of her efforts have been felt far beyond her jurisdiction.
Recognizing that her county’s methods for handling guardianship fraud needed an update, Bock brought in a specialized investigative team and launched the Guardianship Fraud Hotline.
Since then, Bock’s group has investigated more than 1,000 cases of potential fraud and identified over $5.4 million in unsubstantiated disbursements, resulting in several arrests and guardian removals.
Using her county as a model, Bock has also pushed for statewide change. In 2014, the Florida state legislature passed new guardianship laws based on Palm Beach County’s best practices, giving all 67 Florida clerks authority to investigate and audit guardianship cases. And, in 2015 and 2016, the legislature went on to pass two additional guardianship bills. Florida’s current state laws, which allow for increased transparency, accountability and actionable consequences would not be in place today without Bock’s initiative.
Bock’s influence hasn’t stopped at Florida’s state line. In the past year, Nevada has adopted aspects of Palm Beach County’s program, citing Bock’s best practices.
For her impactful work, Route Fifty is pleased to name Bock as a Navigator Award finalist in the State and Local Executive Leadership category.
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Taking a Local Approach to Narrowing the Gender Pay Gap
The city of Tempe, Arizona isn’t holding their breath and waiting for the federal government to legislate pay equality. Instead, city leaders have decided to take on the issue in their own jurisdiction.
In February 2015, the mayor and city council approved the creation of a City Manager’s Working Group to explore an equal pay for equal work ordinance for Tempe businesses. The working group, led by Vice Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage and Councilmembers Lauren Kuby and David Schapira, brought together a broad coalition that included the City Manager's Office, City Attorney's Office and Office of Strategic Management along with representatives from the offices for Diversity, Public Relations, Procurement, Human Resources and Public Works.
This group, with input from higher education partners, created a first of its kind self-assessment tool to help local businesses gauge where they stand when it comes to pay equality.
The city’s 2014 Anti-Discrimination Ordinance serves as the policy guide for inequality complaints. And, the initiative has created a way for the businesses that are already standing above the rest to be rewarded for their good work.
Another key component of the Equal Pay for Equal Work initiative is salary negotiation education. The city has partnered with the American Association of University Women to offer the free workshops, which are designed to help community members build confidence and skills around salary negotiation, market worth, and business strategies. The goal is to train at least 8,000 women in five years. So far, 300 women have participated in these training opportunities.
For their comprehensive and important work, we’re happy to recognize this team in Tempe as a Navigator Award Finalist.