A state in fiscal crisis. A shell-shocked city struggling to piece itself together after a storm. A community marred by years of ethics scandals. Mistrust of police. Broken health care. Partisan gridlock. 

These are some of the toughest, most entrenched problems in the country. And they’re precisely the situations that have been faced by Governing’s 2015 Public Officials of the Year. These nine outstanding leaders looked at the challenges in their communities and took decisive action.

Their collective efforts are a lesson in transformation. Today California is once again thriving, and New Orleans is rebounding in ways that were unimaginable just five years ago. Prince George’s County, Md., has stamped out corruption and regained the public’s trust. In New York, officials are pioneering new ways to deliver better health care, and in the Kentucky statehouse, bipartisan cooperation has become the norm. An innovative transit system has remade Cleveland; decades-old criminal cases are being brought to justice in Detroit; and in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, police and residents have learned to trust one another, resulting in a historic drop in crime.

Their stories are inspiring. And their tireless dedication to public service is truly remarkable. It’s with great appreciation that we honor these men and women as Public Officials of the Year.

2015 Honorees

Rushern Baker III

County Executive

Rushern Baker has led Prince George’s County, Md., from the grips of economic recession and political corruption to its most promising point in recent memory. SEE PROFILE

Edmund Brown Jr.


Since closing a $26 billion budget gap, Jerry Brown continues to move California in the right direction. SEE PROFILE

Joseph Calabrese

CEO and General Manager

Thanks to transit chief Joe Calabrese, who wants people to “ride happy or ride free,” Cleveland has the best bus rapid transit system in the country. SEE PROFILE

Jason Helgerson

State Medicaid Director

In the state that once spent the most on health care, Jason Helgerson found ways to cut New York's costs. Now he's leading one of the nation’s biggest Medicaid reforms. SEE PROFILE

Mitchell Landrieu


Since Hurricane Katrina, Mitch Landrieu has helped make New Orleans a place to come home to. SEE PROFILE

Robert Stivers

Senate President

In a state with a split-party legislature, Robert Stivers has brought together Kentucky lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. SEE PROFILE

Phil & Emada Tingirides

Commander & Sergeant

Working for the Los Angeles Police Department, a husband and wife have created a model program for building neighborhood relations. SEE PROFILE

Kym Worthy

County Prosecutor

Kym Worthy of Wayne County, Mich., has become a national voice on processing rape kits and bringing offenders to justice. SEE PROFILE