In many ways, it’s a brutal time to be a public official. The past year has seen an exhausting slog of political scandals, personal attacks, negative headlines and anti-government outrage. Government, we've been told from both sides of the aisle, is broken.

Which is why it’s all the more vital to highlight the outstanding accomplishments of Governing’s 2016 Public Officials of the Year. These eight remarkable men and women know that public service isn’t about casting blame or pointing fingers. It’s about forging real solutions to real problems.

For our eight honorees, it’s about taking on issues of social inequality through new solutions for housing, public transit, early childhood development, and the health and wellness of an entire community. It's about seeing a nationwide opioid crisis and coming together to address it. It’s about helping those struggling with mental illness, rather than locking them up in overcrowded jails. It’s about ensuring that taxpayer dollars are managed well, and that state revenues are aligned with the reality of the 21st-century economy.

True public service, as these eight exemplary leaders know, is about working together.

Governing is pleased to honor the achievements of these dedicated individuals, and we’re proud to recognize them as Public Officials of the Year.

2016 Honorees

Charlie Baker


As a Republican running a blue state, he's working across the aisle to find common ground. In the process, Massachusetts is helping other states address the opioid epidemic. READ PROFILE

Dow Constantine

County Executive

Managing one of the nation’s most populous counties is no small task. But with a data-driven approach, he's improved the lives of many in the Seattle metro area. READ PROFILE

Kristen Cox

Executive Director, Office of Management and Budget

Under her leadership, Utah is doing more than any other state to prepare for the next economic downturn. READ PROFILE

Michael Hancock


Denver is booming. But not for all of its residents. He's making sure low-income people feel the benefits, too. READ PROFILE

Steven Leifman

County Judge

He's developed a national model for diverting mentally ill people out of jail and into treatment. READ PROFILE

Keith Parker

General Manager and CEO

He took over one of the most beleaguered and least-loved transit systems in America -- and reversed its course in metro Atlanta. READ PROFILE

Deb Peters

State Senator

From sparsely-populated South Dakota, she's leading the fight to make it legal for states to collect taxes from online purchases. READ PROFILE

Nick Macchione

Director of Health and Human Services

Thanks to him, San Diego has been ahead of the curve in the quest to tear down silos that keep people from living healthier, happier lives. READ PROFILE