The 50 Finalists of Route Fifty's 2019 Navigator Awards

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Connecting state and local government leaders

These leaders and teams are making a difference in state and local government and the communities they serve.

For the fourth year, Route Fifty is proud to recognize a group of innovators in state and local government who are reinventing government services across the country.

This year we received hundreds of nominations from readers, selecting 10 finalists for the 2019 Navigator Awards in each of five categories: The Electeds, The Leaders, The Tech Innovators, The Next Generation and The Allies. These leaders are working on solutions for all kinds of problems, from a state plan to help people save for their retirements to finding ways to bridge the digital divide. 

Five winners—one in each category—will be announced in a ceremony at the National League of Cities’ annual City Summit in San Antonio on November 20.

The Electeds

  • Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington, West Virginia, for his work implementing programs to help people addicted to opioids. 
  • Colleen Younger, property valuation administrator in Jefferson County, Kentucky, for “You Have a Right to Appeal” campaign educating residents about the process to challenge property assessments.  
  • Tobias Read, Oregon treasurer, for OregonSaves, the state’s retirement program for residents without employer-based plans.  
  • Gov. Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland, for his administration’s economic development work, particularly the Employment Advancement Right Now workforce training program.
  • Mayor London Breed, mayor of San Francisco, for launching “Opportunities For All,” a program that provides paid internships for high school kids.  
  • Patricia Darlington, vice mayor of Stillwater, Oklahoma, for her leadership on mental health issues, including recruiting a mental health treatment center to the region. 
  • Nellie M. Gorbea, Rhode Island secretary of state, for her work modernizing the state’s election systems. 
  • Mayor Bill Partington and Ormond Beach City Commissioners for the creation of “OB Life,” a new community outreach effort. 
  • Mayor Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City for her work on renewable energy initiatives.
  • Lisa Brown, clerk/recorder for Oakland County, Michigan, for her work to combat deed and mortgage fraud

The Leaders

  • Community Mental Health Systems Improvement team for creating a crisis treatment center in Nashville.
  • Gina Knepp, manager of the Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento, California for launching an automated text messaging system to help owners find their lost pets. 
  • David Seltz, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, for his leadership on identifying strategies to contain the growth of health care costs. 
  • Gabriel Morley, executive director of the Fulton County Library System, and team for deployment of a data analytics program to evaluate and improve the library collection management.
  • Athanasia Boskailo, director of operations for Vermont Health Access, for simplifying the documentation submission process for residents applying for Medicaid and, therefore, speeding up eligibility determinations. 
  • Arlington Water Utilities Sanitary Sewer Overflow Core Team for using data and surveillance video to revamp the Texas city’s sanitary sewer cleaning schedule. 
  • Andrew “Pete” Peterson, the chief information officer for Oakland, California, for leading a team that developed apps in-house for city residents to use. 
  • Claire Jubb, community development director for Charlotte County, Florida, for development of a digital damage assessment program that has to-date assessed damage of more than $9 million. 
  • Durham Expunction and Restoration Program, led by Ryan Smith, the city’s innovation team director, Judge Josephine Kerr Davis, Judge Amanda Maris, and District Attorney Satana Deberry, which identifies people eligible for restoration of a suspended or revoked driver’s license, wipes away old traffic charges and works on license restoration. 
  • Penney Barker, business and licensing director for the West Virginia secretary of state, for improvements to the business registration system, including user-friendly redesigns to the agency website. 

The Allies

  • Sammy Lowdermilk, program manager for The Enterprise Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Tech Goes Home program that has served more than 4,000 people in the city, distributing 2,000 devices and connecting over 500 people to a low-cost Internet plan. 
  • Maggie Brunner, program director for Cybersecurity, Technology, and Communications at the National Governors Association, for leading the development of the group’s Resource Center for State Cybersecurity, which has provided in-depth strategic planning support to 17 states. 
  • Hester Street, a nonprofit led by executive director Betsy MacLean, that works with municipalities in New York and the state Attorney General’s office on more equitable code enforcement.  
  • LaunchCode team in St. Louis, Missouri, for its tech training program that also places people in apprenticeships. In 2018, the non-profit helped teach 1,658 people coding skills and placed 344 individuals in jobs or apprenticeships. 
  • Baltimore National Heritage Area, led by executive director Shauntee Daniels, for partnering with the city Department of General Services to raise private funds to restore and reopen the H.L. Mencken House as a public museum and headquarters of the non-profit organization. 
  • Casey Logan, chief executive officer of the Prince George Electric Cooperative, and team for public/private partnership with Prince George County, Virginia, to build out rural broadband. 
  • Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society for its skywatch program at the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve that has led to the Illinois preserve successfully applying for International Dark Sky Park status, as well as work to limit light pollution to allow for night sky observation. 
  • Vite Labs team for work with the city of Syracuse, New York, on developing a blockchain-based currency called Syracoin with the plan to use it to help residents dealing with housing insecurity. 
  • Community Greening in Delray Beach, Florida for work planting trees, including a food forest where residents can gather and pick fresh fruit.
  • CTG UAlbany, a research institute at the University at Albany, for work with local governments in New York state to help improve rural emergency communications and preparedness and improve digital records management.

The Next Generation

  • Melinda Crockom, public education coordinator at the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications, for developing a suite of public educational tools about the appropriate use of 911 and emerging technologies in 911 services. 
  • Larissa Johnson, residential program manager in Montgomery County, Maryland, for leading the county’s efforts to meet the community wide goal of carbon net neutrality by 2035. 
  • Patrick McLoughlin, director of business intelligence at the Maryland Department of Information Technology, for developing dashboards that improve business processes. 
  • Jackson Gilman-Forlini, historic preservation officer in Baltimore, Department of General Services, for revitalizing the historic preservation program. 
  • Chris Castro, senior advisor to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and director of sustainability and resilience for the City of Orlando, for implementing “Green Works Orlando,” the city’s blueprint to become socially inclusive, economically vibrant and carbon-free by 2050. 
  • Vincent Wong, director of community services in Gastonia, North Carolina, for his leadership in improving several city services projects for low-moderate income communities. 
  • Scott Sellers, city manager of Kyle Texas, for creating the “Manager in Residence Program,”  which establishes a talent pipeline of college students to city government management positions. 
  • Felix Schapiro, workforce policy analyst for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, for establishing the Workforce Data Trust and Referral Portal that enables 14 state agencies to share residents’ workforce data to improve their access to skills training opportunities. 
  • Geneva Hooten, innovation and improvement lead at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), for leading the CDOT Innovation and Improvement Initiative to improve government processes through an employee engagement strategy.  
  • Monsur Ahmed, ITS coordinator II for the city of Arlington, Texas, for spearheading the deployment of smart technologies to improve the city’s traffic signal system.  

The Tech Innovators

  • Aidan A. James, IT data architect associate for the city and county of Denver, for initiating data-driven decisionmaking through the creation of analytical dashboards. 
  • Michael Schnuerle, data officer at the Louisville Metro Government, for creating the Open Government Coalition, a network that allows government agencies to share open-sourced projects, as well as spearheading the Waze WARP project to improve traffic flow. 
  • Brad Schmidt, wildland fire technology specialist at the Colorado Department of Public Safety, for implementing TAK (Team Awareness Kit), a geospatial application that improves wildland firefighters’ situational awareness through map navigation, location tracking and data sharing. 
  • Bryan Sastokas, for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, for increasing digital connectivity throughout the public transportation system. 
  • Rachel Riley, Rob Hill and Paula J. Dennison for developing the Simple Planning Tool for planners and emergency managers to assess the local, long-term climate risks in Oklahoma communities. Riley is the deputy director of the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, while Hill and Dennison work for the city of Stillwater, Oklahoma.  
  • Ed Poppitt, consulting engineer, infrastructure management group in Austin, Texas, and team for implementing new practice that consolidates smaller pavement projects into fewer, larger projects to increase efficiency, reduce costs and minimize traffic disruptions.  
  • Kyle Rulli, Jason Kay, David Kochheiser, Sean Bowyer, Sarah Mandrekar and Robert Lieou  in Douglas County Office of Clerk and Recorder in Colorado, for developing the Ballot Information Tracking System, a real-time tracking system for election ballots. 
  • The Assessor Property Records Search project team in Jefferson County, Colorado for developing an online site for property records. 
  • The Eligibility Team at the Michigan Department of Technology Management and Budget for creating the “Bridges” app, which enables residents to request and receive social service benefits.
  • The City of Wichita IT Department for leveraging new technologies to create a gunshot detection system and copper theft deterrent project.