Montgomery County’s First Innovation Officer

Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 5th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2015 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick of the NextGen Training Summit on July 20th and 21st in Washington, DC. This year we have 30 finalists – the NextGen 30. Over the next month we will introduce you to our finalists through this blog series.


Meet the finalist:

Who: Daniel Hoffman, Chief Innovation Officer, Montgomery County, Maryland

Achievement: NextGen Public Service Finalist, Courageous Champions Category

“For many residents, he has become the County’s front door, an entry point for suggestions and feedback. He seeks ideas that are: testable in a iterative, entrepreneurial manner; scalable to show some form of return on investment and; risky or experimental in nature.”-Roger Berliner,Montgomery County, Maryland. Berliner nominated Hoffman for NextGen Courageous Champions.

As the very first Chief Innovation Officer of Montgomery County, Maryland, Daniel Hoffman has a lot of pressure to live up to his title.

But what is a “Chief Innovation Officer,” anyways? Hoffman tests those ideas, processes, and technologies that have the potential to fail but even more so have the chance to succeed. In short, Hoffman and his team look for ideas that can have a real return on investment for the county.

Taking risks when it comes to utilizing precious county resources is a daunting task. “There will always be a desire for success, there will always be accountability to taxpayers, and we still have to be good stewards of taxpayer resources,” Hoffman said. To do this, he has to constantly act with good intent, knowing that mistakes will be made. “You can’t move forward without sticking your neck out a little bit.”

One of the spaces that allows for Hoffman and his team to play around with ideas is their test bed, or “Thingstitute”, a living lab for the Internet of Things. One of their focuses is on making senior living facilities safer and more comfortable for Montgomery County’s elderly population. Specifically, they’re using technology to improve air quality while also raising awareness of how poor air quality affects a population that is prone to respiratory issues.

Working in both the private and public sector has truly shaped the way Hoffman approaches innovation now. A consistent takeaway across sectors, he said, is that “you can never underestimate your communication and stakeholder management approach.” Often the public perceives the government as a slow-moving bureaucratic entity, but many issues are fast-paced and require rapid decision-making. Sometimes Hoffman has to drop everything to address a problem. This is where effective communication and building dynamic relationships with key players is critical in any position.

Hoffman first experienced innovation in the government at the young age of 16 when he began working with the Secretary of Treasury on coinage policy. Remember those maps of the United States that collect state quarters? You can thank Dan Hoffman for that!

Over the course of his career, Hoffman has also created smart growth initiatives, helped develop The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), worked at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during Fukushima’s nuclear disaster, and much more. Although he found working at a federal level rewarding, working at a local level allows Hoffman to actually see whom his policies are affecting.

“You know there are companies that do good work that are just good companies. Either they treat employees well or they operate in an ethical, productive manner that benefits the common good. But in government you can’t help but have a purpose that’s important to the community.” 

Ultimately Hoffman wants to show the future generations that you can make an impact in the public sector. In the innovation specialist’s words… “You can make history doing things other than winning the World Series or winning a Grammy.”

We will be talking to all the NextGen Public Service Award finalists in the upcoming weeks. See the full list here. Finally, register to attend the Awards Ceremony to get to know the NextGen 30 in-person!

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