Connecting state and local government leaders
Up-and-coming leaders are empowering women to pursue emergency management careers, building entrepreneurial skills among youth, housing citizens, saving lives, and just plain making government better.
Today, Route Fifty honors “The Next Generation.” These up-and-coming leaders in government are showing that new ideas and new blood can bring big change into state and local government.
Here are the 10 finalists, that are doing big things and showing themselves as the next “ones to watch” in public service:
HERricane Arlington Executive Director Lauren R. Stienstra and Advisory Board, Department of Public Safety Communication and Emergency Management, Arlington County, Virginia
Empowering women in emergency response
If Stienstra and her team have anything to say about it, the future of emergency management is female. HERricane Arlington is a summer camp that gives high school-aged girls the knowledge, skills, and abilities to survive disasters—and a stepping stone to consider careers in emergency management. The program focuses on experiential, hands-on learning related to personal preparedness, natural hazards, and crisis communication. The summer camp provides exposure to the field and leadership training to ensure those who pursue it will be successful.
Reginald Burroughs III, Legislative Advocate & Youth Employment Coordinator, City of Orlando, Florida
Growing at-risk youths’ entrepreneurship and savvy
Burroughs has helped build a youth business and entrepreneurship program into a national phenomenon. The program, located in the Parramore neighborhood, where the child poverty rate is estimated to be 51 percent, teaches younger residents how to create a business plan, accounting principles, marketing, financial literacy and soft skills. Through this learning process, they can join the program’s business, Black Bee Honey. The program and proceeds from the business have received national attention, featured in dozens of publications and the "Steve Show" a national daytime talk show. The program has sold more than 4,000 lbs of honey, and has employed over 250 youth from the community in the past year with over 30 community partners. More than 100 children from the neighborhood have gone one to secondary educational programs.
Kiana Taheri, Smart City and Behavioral Science Lead, Mayor's innovation Team, City of Los Angeles
Leading civic innovation and tackling housing concerns
From her perch as part of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Innovation Team, Taheri is championing the testing and evaluating new programs and policies to better serve all residents. At 27, Taheri was a key force behind Los Angeles’ accessory dwelling units program, which encouraged homeowners to build small dwellings in the yards of their single homes in an effort to combat L.A.’s housing and homelessness crisis. The program won a $100,000 Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge grant and attracted national press. Taheri has helped promote customer-centric service delivery using behaviorally-based, low-cost evaluations to determine the best way to deliver services to residents. Her work and efforts were instrumental in coordinating Los Angeles’ application to What Works Cities Certification, which validates the data-informed work of local governments; to date, L.A. is the only city to be certified at the gold level.
Tempe Grease Cooperative Administrative Team, City of Tempe, Arizona
Green partnerships that grow businesses and save infrastructure
Getting rid of grease is a perennial headache for both local communities and restaurants in cities. It’s tough to police compliance, and sending it down drains can be damaging to the infrastructure of both buildings and city sewers. Enter the Tempe Grease Cooperative, which serves as a buying agent and provides compliance assurances to businesses. Started as a pilot project in 2014, today one-fifth of the city’s food service establishments, approximately 200 establishments, have voluntarily enrolled. Restaurants that sign up receive a discount on their utility bills due to the reduced risk to the sewer infrastructure, and it’s no loss to the city. The team estimates the city is receiving a savings of over $250,000 per year in treatment costs (over $1,000 per participating restaurant) as a result of more effective grease diversion. They also have the potential to generate renewable biogas from the grease. With over 600,000 gallons collected so far, that’s 4.8 million cubic feet of renewable biogas based on EPA estimates.
Peter Kobak, Project Manager, Innovation Team, City of Peoria, Illinois
Taking innovation to scale
Kobak has played a crucial role in spreading the work of Peoria’s three-year-old innovation team well beyond a small group by developing the cities’ Data Science Fellowship. The fellowship is a 10-week intensive data science course through General Assembly. The fellowship team included city employees, as well as individuals from the city/county health department and Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. After collectively accruing 350 hours developing their data science skills, the initial team has made some key changes that have made the city more effective and efficient, including the fire department utilized scripts to minimize the time it takes to prepare reports for the accreditation process, saving hours of administrative work for the city.
Bryan Hirsch, Deputy Chief Digital Officer, Massachusetts Executive Office of Technology Services and Security
Transforming a state’s digital footprint
Hirsch is a key figure in the radical rethink of how the Massachusetts serves its residents via digital channels. He has helped the commonwealth move from an agency-focused online structure to one that is constituent-centric with intuitive navigation across the entirety of government. He has also backed it up with data, leveraging web analytics, content quality measures, and extensive user research. A proof of concept was ready in three months and after a year of development, the state relaunched its new vision for its web presence in the fall of last year. According to their user survey data, overall satisfaction with Mass.gov increased by 15 percent since that time.
Director Babila Lima and Team, Business Process Improvement Office, Baltimore, Maryland
Building a tech talent pipeline
Working with non-profit Code in the Schools, Lima and his team helped build Code for the City—a program aimed at building a pipeline for technology-related careers within city government. The program helps high school students take coding and computer science skills to public service in their city, working with on real-world problems in the public sector. The program culminated with students showcasing their computer science solutions to city and industry leaders. The program, by design, hired one of the students to implement their solution and helped build the pipeline for a 21st century-ready city government workforce. The impressive presentations led to interest from other agencies and companies, so Lima and his team are using it as an opportunity to expand these internship placements throughout the public and private sector.
Tara Bergfeld, Principal Legislative Research Analyst, Tennessee Comptroller's Office
Building a policy roadmap to end sexual abuse
Bergfield has been a key part of the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability since 2012, serving as their resident expert on charter school policy. After Tennessee was assigned an F grade by USA Today in 2016 for the states’ laws and policies concerning educator sexual misconduct involving students, Bergfield was asked to investigate. The year-long research project involved interviews with stakeholder groups and public officials both inside and outside the state, along with a review of laws and policies in Tennessee and beyond. Bergfield’s efforts identified risks and weaknesses in the current education policy landscape and recommended policy considerations. After the report was published in January, it received praise from legislative leaders, as well as executive branch officials and members of the state Board of Education. In addition to the five new laws passed as a result of the report and Bergfield’s testimony, state legislators appropriated funding for the State Board of Education to hire an additional staff attorney to review cases of educator misconduct.
Assistant Chief of Staff Laura Cederberg and Team, Office of Governor Mark Dayton, State of Minnesota
A common brand in the North Star State
As Route Fifty and its readers know, while innovation itself is tough, getting unity across government can be even more difficult. That’s why Cederberg and five person team’s effort to move almost 100 agencies, boards, and commissions from separate logos to consolidated branding under one unified logo is a finalist for this year’s Navigator Awards. Within one year, the team was able to launch the new logo at all 23 cabinet agencies and 47 state boards and commissions. Recruiters and HR staff are able to easily market the state as one employer, with the whole of state hosting tables at job fairs as one employer, as opposed to individual agencies. The team estimates that the new state brand identity will save $1.7 million annually through shared document templates, in-house designer collaboration and staff design time. To that end, the team developed and continues to build a digital library where all employees can access branded templates, a style guide and “best in show” designs and materials that can be reused or modified.
Jose Serrano-McClain, Project Manager, NYCx, Mayor's Office of the Chief Technology Officer, City of New York
Spearheading collaboration that educates and creates civic solutions
NYCx Co-Labs were launched in 2017 to bring together local residents, government, academia, and technologists to identify, co-develop and test new solutions to neighborhood-specific concerns. They serve as hubs for education and experimentation in “high-need, high-opportunity neighborhoods,” providing job opportunities by highlighting STEM careers and linking local residents to training programs like the city’s Tech Talent Pipeline. It also gives residents an opportunity to collaborate with technologists to apply technology to solve neighborhood problems. Serrano-McClain successfully launched the first Co-Lab in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Despite only beginning last year, the results are already starting. After a six-month process, a new zero-waste recycling and composting system will be introduced at a NYC Housing Authority development in Brownsville with over 1,300 families. They are close to finalizing a solution to improve nighttime economic and safety in neighborhood corridors. Working with partners, Serrano-McClain implemented a 6-month pilot of intelligent lighting systems for community corridors and digital activation of public spaces. Serrano McClain has also been a successful advocate for the deployment of a broader WiFi network locally, and its paid off with more access and infrastructure. He now is overseeing the launch of the program in Inwood, a community in the northernmost stretches of Manhattan. The city intends to have Co-Labs in all five boroughs of the city.
NEXT STORY A Grassroots Call to Ban Gerrymandering