"Innovation" is a word that gets tossed around a lot in public-sector circles these days. Government leaders at all levels right now are under constant pressure to innovate, innovate, innovate. 

But what exactly is innovation? Certainly it’s about more than just saving money or developing the latest, most clever citizen app. True government innovation is about finding new solutions to our most persistent collective challenges. It’s about taking risks and discovering new ways to make government more effective. Innovation is about leadership -- and it’s the driving force for each of these nine Public Officials of the Year.

These men and women implement innovative new approaches every day. They’re making the tough decisions necessary to put government on sounder fiscal footing. They’re creating resilient communities that are ready for the future. They’re breaking down political barriers to work with opponents across the aisle. They’re redefining the very nature of their jobs, reaching beyond the traditional scope of their positions to make streets safer for people to walk on, to cut crime by empowering former offenders, to fight for legal justice, to encourage different communities to share their best ideas.

They are innovative in every sense of the word. For their continued commitment to public service, their remarkable leadership -- and yes, for their innovation­­­ -- we’re honored to recognize these nine outstanding public officials.

2014 Honorees

Stacey Abrams

House Minority Leader

Despite her party's small Democratic caucus, Stacey Abrams has not only made it relevant but has maximized its influence by working across the aisle to improve Georgia government for everyone. SEE PROFILE

Mike Hein

County Executive

Mike Hein has made it his mission to seek out and share creative solutions to problems that confront New York’s local governments. SEE PROFILE

Rick Snyder


A former accountant and entrepreneur, Rick Snyder brought risk-taking and performance management to the governor's office in Michigan. SEE PROFILE

Wendy Still

Chief Adult Probation Officer

In a state with unconstitutionally overcrowded prisons, Wendy Still has helped transform San Francisco's parole system from a punitive one to a supportive one that serves as a national model for reducing recidivism. SEE PROFILE

Michael Nutter


Under Michael Nutter's leadership, Philadelphia has gone from a city down on its luck to one that's known for innovation, smart urban design and sustainability. SEE PROFILE

Billy Hattaway

District 1 Secretary, Department of Transportation

In a state notorious for high pedestrian death rates, Billy Hattaway is leading Florida's first-ever and so-far successful statewide plan to make the roads safer for walkers and bikers. SEE PROFILE

Carrie Banahan

Executive Director

Kentucky was one of the few states to launch a successful health exchange, and that's largely because of Carrie Banahan. SEE PROFILE

Chris Connealy

State Fire Marshal

A lifelong firefighter, Chris Connealy is not only making firefighting safer at home, but is leading a national effort to dust off old arson cases and carefully scrutinize new ones to make sure justice is served. SEE PROFILE

George Hawkins

General Manager, D.C. Water

George Hawkins rebranded D.C. Water's image and transformed the troubled utility into a nationwide leader in conservation and efficiency. SEE PROFILE