Navigator Award Finalist: Deborah Collins, Deputy County Administrator, Essex County, N.J.


Connecting state and local government leaders

Making strides to make government contracting more inclusive.

This is the 22nd in a series of profiles on the 50 finalists for Route Fifty’s Navigator Awards program. The first 10 finalists were from the Government Allies and Cross-Sector Partners category. Finalists 11-20 were from the Agency and Department Leadership category. Finalists 21-30 were from the Executive Leadership category. Finalists 31-40 were from the Next Generation category. Finalists 41-50 were from the Data and IT Innovators category. Explore our complete list of 50 finalists.​​

It requires a certain amount of courage to take a long, hard look at inequalities that can exist within government.

That’s exactly what Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., the executive in Essex County, New Jersey, sought to do when, in 2004, he hired Deborah Collins—now the deputy county administrator—to lead the team that carried out the Essex County Disparity Study. The purpose of the study was to determine whether small businesses and businesses owned by women and minorities were getting a fair shake when it came to government contracts.

The study, which is the first and only investigation of its kind in the state of New Jersey, was published in 2005 and showed that fewer than .05 percent of Essex County’s contracts were being given to these types of businesses. For the county’s officials, the study’s findings were a wake-up call for officials in the North Jersey jurisdiction, which includes the city of Newark and neighboring municipalities and has nearly 800,000 residents.

The results of the study led the county to create the Office of Small Business Development and Affirmative Action—with Collins as its director—in 2006. Under Collins’ skilled guidance, the county has since prioritized leveling the playing field for businesses seeking contracts in a way that has produced dramatic results.

Now, 52 percent of the county’s contracts are awarded to small businesses, and ventures that are owned by women or minorities.

It is because of this work and the commitment to improve government contracting that we are happy to announce that Deborah Collins is a Route Fifty Navigator Awards finalist.

Quinn Libson writes for Government Executive’s Route Fifty

NEXT STORY: Navigator Award Finalist: Lance Hedquist, City Administrator, South Sioux City, Neb.