"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.

Stacey Abrams, House Minority Leader, Georgia

Mike Hein, County Executive, Ulster County, N.Y.

Rick Snyder, Governor, Michigan

Wendy Still, Chief Adult Probation Officer, San Francisco County, Calif.

Michael Nutter, Mayor, Philadelphia

Billy Hattaway, District 1 Secretary, Department of Transportation, Florida

Carrie Banahan, Executive Director, Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange

Chris Connealy, State Fire Marshal, Texas

George Hawkins, General Manager, D.C. Water