An unfortunate truth of public service is that praise, while richly deserved, is not heard nearly as often as it should be. Across the country, federal, state, and local employees are working hard on behalf of their constituents, innovating, overcoming, and delivering, often in relative anonymity.
The NextGen Awards aim to help correct this by recognizing public servants who have shown exceptional levels of dedication and leadership. The 2018 awards saw 32 employees nominated by their coworkers for awards across five different categories; below, meet the five winners and learn a little bit about what makes them so special.
ADVOCATE: Scott Howland Chief Information Officer and Division Chief of the Information Management Division at the California Highway Patrol
Scott is in charge of all of the technology services that the California Highway Patrol needs to keep drivers safe and the complex highway system running smoothly. Scott recently spearheaded a successful modernization push that saw all of the state’s collision data moved to real-time electronic format for easier access and analysis. “I am in public service because I love helping people and wanted to make a difference,” says Scott, “it is great being part of a team that provides service to the public 24/7 and makes a difference by saving lives every day.”
SILENT HERO: Becky Jo Glover Director of Customer Service for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Becky Jo oversees the customer service team for Grand Rapids, which exists to assist residents across a broad range of issue areas. When users found the city’s website difficult to use, Becky Jo led the drive to modernize and make it more intuitive and user friendly, using extensive data collection and analysis to prioritize the parts of the website that citizens used most. She believes that public servants have a vital role to play because “…we are able to make a difference in the people that we come in contact with every single day. I’m in public service because today I’m able to a change a life.”
COURAGEOUS CHAMPION: Alex Perez Video Services Coordinator for Aurora, Illinois
Alex runs Aurora Community Television (ACTV), a public-access network that provides around-the-clock programming for residents. In his time with ACTV, he has launched new shows, created an internship program, and grown the channel to one that rivals much larger operations when it comes to content and citizen engagement. Aside from the chance to take on the responsibility of running a television channel, Alex love the job, he says, because it “…allows [him] to mix creativity and learning about government.”
INNOVATOR: Sahra Torres-Rivera Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the Food and Drug Administration and Director of the Office of Financial Management, FDA
Sahra is responsible for overseeing five divisions of the FDA, encompassing a broad portfolio of services and issues. She was a leader in implementing technology known as process robotics, which allows bots to perform repetitive tasks that would formerly have taken up the time of a human employee. Sahra’s guiding light in public service is being able to “…help [her] agency to make a difference.”
EXEMPLARY LEADER: Erika Taylor Supervisory and Management Analyst in the Division of Grants Management Operations at the Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration
Erika leads a team of management analysts that works with both grant recipients and internal staffers on a range of issues from compliance to training. After just three years as a supervisor, Erika has significantly expanded her team of analysts, created a more defined role in which her unit operates, and brought cohesion to an initially disconnected body of employees. Erika believes that public servants have the potential to create change on a large scale, and wants the public to know “…that there are great people in all levels of government that work hard every day for the good of the country.”
While NextGen was honored to be able to recognize these outstanding individuals, there are of course countless more who deserve praise and appreciation for the work they do every day. While it is not possible to acknowledge them all with an award, it is hoped that by highlighting the work of some of them, public attention can be brought to bear on the dedicated service of all of them.