Best Public Officials of 2014
by Paul Wolf - posted 1:11 am, January 7, 2015
Every year Governing Magazine honors state and local government officials for outstanding accomplishments by recognizing several as Public Officials of the Year. Below are some highlights from a few of the officials that made the list for 2014.
Mike Hein (County Executive, Ulster County, NY) – Hein has made it his mission to seek out and share creative solutions to problems that confront New York’s local governments. Using his platform as then-president of the New York State County Executives Association, Hein in 2013 hosted a series of forums to highlight the new survival skills that local governments were cultivating. Out of that grew the Municipal Innovation Exchange, a database launched earlier this year and managed by the New York State Association of Counties. Now filled with more than 2,000 innovations and examples, the exchange is a resource where local governments can learn from the experiences of their peers and quickly find out how others solved similar problems. How can a city and county centralize their public works functions? Can two counties share a medical examiner?
Rick Snyder (Governor of Michigan) – The first certified public accountant to be elected governor in Michigan.Snyder makes heavy use of performance scorecards and dashboards, which the state as a whole and most individual agencies now use.“Most elected officials abhor risk. They run from it,” Snyder says. “But if everything we did worked, that means we’re not taking risks.” Good leaders, he says, must assume some risk and accept that not everything they try will be successful.
Michael Nutter (Mayor of Philadelphia) – Philadelphia isn’t an easy place to govern. But Mayor Michael Nutter has undoubtedly made an outsized impact on the city, creating a Philadelphia that’s cleaner, safer, smarter and more fiscally sound than the city he began leading in 2008. Becoming mayor just as the recession was deepening prevented Nutter from launching many grand new initiatives. Instead, he has done the dig-in-the-ground dirty work that has put the city on a firmer financial footing and fostered in Philadelphia a new sense of energy and innovation. “He helped right the ship by not panicking and [by] having long-term goals, not short-term fixes,” says Randall Miller, a historian at St. Joseph’s University.
At home, Nutter has made a government never well known for good customer service run more smoothly, both through strong appointments and his endless interest in tinkering through his Office of New Urban Mechanics. It’s far from perfect, but citizens who interact with the city now can expect to get a result — without having to rely on the pay-to-play ways that formerly dominated dealings with city hall. “There hasn’t been so much as a whiff of public corruption to taint either Mayor Nutter or his inner circle,” Philadelphia magazine noted in July. Philadelphia still has big challenges, but Nutter has presided over a government that is more open and honest and a city that is more populous and prosperous.
As part of the nomination process, Governing requests a 600 word essay that addresses the following:
We’d like to know what distinguishes your nominee from his or her counterparts around the country. What has the nominee done in office that makes him or her a model for other public officials to follow? It’s fine to describe someone as a hard worker or a kind person, but there are thousands of hard workers and kind people around the country. It’s also fine to list the other awards your nominee has received, but it’s better if you can tell a compelling story about the nominee’s achievements. We need to know what your nominee has done that is unique or highly unusual — what makes him or her one of the very best people working for any state, city or county in the United States.
Are there any government officials from Western New York meeting the above criteria that you believe are worthy of a Public Official of the Year nomination?