When we launched Government Technology’s annual Top 25 issue in March 2002, our goal was simple: to recognize the excellence we encounter every day in the public sector.

One of the nicest things about my job is that I get to regularly rub elbows with some of the brightest people in state and local government — and the same is true for a number of my colleagues at Government Technology and its parent company, e.Republic. Over the course of a year, we interview hundreds of state and local officials about innovative technology deployments for Government Technology magazine and Govtech.com. We also talk to them face-to-face at more than 200 live events.

The Top 25 became our way of honoring the most impressive individuals we meet. We call them “Doers, Dreamers and Drivers” in recognition of the commitment, vision and plain old hard work that’s required to move government forward despite the obstacles.

Ten years after that inaugural issue, we’re still at it. And given the fierce challenges and huge opportunities facing states, cities and counties, we think our original goal of recognizing public-sector excellence and innovation is more important than ever.

As usual, this year’s winners are a distinguished and varied collection of people.

Our 2012 list includes the New York City Police Department CIO, who led a technology turnaround in the nation’s largest local police force, and the mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., who spearheaded a citywide broadband project that delivers some of the country’s fastest Internet connection speeds. It includes the CIO of Montana, who launched a multistate effort to store GIS data in the cloud, and the CIO of Indiana University, who used open source software to collaboratively create administrative software used by multiple institutions.

Most of our 2012 winners come from inside government, but others run startups or nonprofits that have profoundly influenced public-sector IT. For instance, we’ve honored the creator of YouTown, a suite of mobile apps that allows agencies to easily launch open data offerings. We also recognized the founder of Code for America, a nonprofit that matches open source software developers with cities that want to undertake innovative technology projects.

In all, we’ve honored nearly 300 individuals over the years — from the biggest names in our market to unsung heroes, toiling under the radar to improve their communities. These days, government gets too much blame for causing problems and not enough credit for solving them. Government Technology’s Top 25 shows that there are a lot of talented and dedicated people working in public agencies across the country — and we’re all better off because of them.

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology,Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.