Every campaign season brings a raft of candidates who boast that they will take office ready to ask the tough questions about why their states, cities and counties stick to the same policies and strategies, instead of finding ways to perform better. They promise to poke into the dark corners of government and get the answers needed to improve the system. Unfortunately, a promise that looks simple in October becomes difficult to implement in January. More often than not, the toughest questions end up near the bottom of a long to-do list.
For a public official, asking tough questions is rarely fun. But it's doable, if somebody with brains and courage and persistence demands answers. Our eight Public Officials of the Year possess all those qualities. Their efforts have brought real results that have improved the lives of the people they represent. Governing is proud to honor their accomplishments.
The 2008 Public Officials of the Year are:
Rick Baker, St. Petersburg Mayor
John Carter, Dayton, Ohio, Housing Inspector
Mitch Daniels, Indiana Governor
Lillian Koller, Director of the Hawaii Department of Human Services
Dan Lohrmann, Michigan's Chief Information Security Officer
Andrew Romanoff, Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives
Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore's Health Director
Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney
Every year since 1994, GOVERNING has honored individual state and local government officials for outstanding accomplishment by naming them Public Officials of the Year. Elected, appointed and career officials from any branch of state or local government are eligible. Our readers are invited to nominate individuals who have had a notable positive impact on their department or agency, community or state.
GOVERNING annually receives several hundred nominations from individuals in the public and private sectors. In addition, GOVERNING staff consults experts and scholars in the field, and also nominates outstanding individuals they encounter in the course of their work. Nominations are evaluated by a selection committee, which, after painstaking research, chooses the winners.