To read the press release on the 2011 Public Officials of the Year, please click here.
It’s been four years since the housing bubble burst. And even though the Great Recession is officially over, let’s face it: Times are still really tough. Across the country, public officials find themselves with some of the largest budget gaps on record. Forty-two states projected shortfalls for fiscal year 2012 totaling $103 billion. With national unemployment hovering around 9 percent, foreclosures claiming one in 111 homes, pension liabilities of up to $3 trillion and Medicaid enrollment on the rise, state and local governments have had to make severe cuts to health, education and workforce rolls, among other things.
But despite all the doom and gloom, the story of 2011’s Public Officials of the Year is not a sad one. To be sure, these honorees have had to do more with less, to make tough choices in a time of increasingly strained public revenues. But in the end, their story is one of problem-solving. These nine individuals took on the biggest issues facing states and localities, and they found solutions. They will leave their cities, counties and states, as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed puts it, “leaner, more efficient and built for the future.”
Reed and our other 2011 Public Officials of the Year are the right leaders for tough times. More than crisis managers, they are reformers. Both Reed and Utah Sen. Dan Liljenquist transformed flailing pension systems into national models. They are innovators. Boston’s Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood run a nimble IT shop, creating small apps and programs that have had a huge impact. And they are leaders. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe wasn’t content just to weather the financial storm of the Great Recession; he beat it with budget surpluses. These individuals remind us that even in the toughest of times, solutions -- through compromise, collaboration and tenacity -- can be found. Problems can be solved. Governing is proud to honor their accomplishments.
The 2011 Public Officials of the Year are:
Mike Beebe, Governor of Arkansas
Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor, The City University of New York
Ron Haddad, Chief of Police, City of Dearborn, Mich.
Lee E. Haworth, Circuit Judge, 12th Judicial Circuit Court, State of Florida
Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood, Co-Chairs, Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, City of Boston
Dan Liljenquist, Senator, State of Utah
Joanie Mahoney, County Executive, Onondaga County, New York
Kasim Reed, Mayor, City of Atlanta
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.