Five years ago when theirs was the self-described "worst government site on the Web," Washington, D.C.'s IT staff came up with what they termed a "Kennedy Dream."

In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy presented to Congress the goal of landing a man on the moon before the decade's end. The plan was particularly ambitious given the fact that the United States was nearly a full year away from its first manned space flight of any length or distance.

Like Kennedy, the IT team in Washington, D.C., knew its goal of moving from worst government Web site to No. 1 was a long shot at best. But the group was determined, focused and dedicated, according to Suzanne Peck, CTO of the district.

Recently the Center for Digital Government -- a national research and advisory institute on IT in government and education -- named the district's site the top city government Web site in the United States.

"It seemed an impossible dream when we first said we would be No. 1," said Peck. "But now, five years later, here we are."

Best of the Web winners were chosen from sites entered in categories that included city, county and state government. A panel of IT experts judged sites based on innovation, Web-based delivery of public services, efficiency, economy and functionality for improved citizen access.

More than 260 jurisdictions vied for the award, making Peck's victory all the more sweet.

"We are over the moon," said Peck. "Our goal was to provide residents, businesses and visitors in the nation's capital with more online services than any other municipality, and I think we're doing that."

Peck credited several key IT officials including Adam Rubinson, Jamey Harvey, Vic Grimes and Deirdre Samson with helping her team realize the dream.

"We've got a great mayor, good IT leadership, fabulous IT professionals and now this," said Peck. "We're really enjoying the recognition."

Others enjoying similar recognition in best state and county Web site categories are IT teams in Utah and Montgomery County, Md.

"We were delighted to receive the award for best state Web site," said Utah CIO W. Val Oveson. "Our IT team has a long-term commitment to serving the public. This award has been a very big boost for us."

In fact, Utah has a long history of fostering leading-edge technology. Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt -- recently named the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- made technological improvements and innovations a major part of his decade-long tenure.

"Gov. Leavitt's commitment to technology took the state to a whole new level," said Oveson. "I'm sure Gov. [Olene] Walker will carry on his vision and commitment."

In Montgomery County, Md., commitment is also the watchword.

"We strive to offer the best portal and online services possible to our citizens," said Alisoun Moore, CIO of Montgomery County. "We are constantly trying to improve our offerings and stay ahead of the curve."

Moore said her team paid particular attention to making the county's Web site citizen-friendly.

"Rather than designing the portal in a manner consistent with the county's organizational structure, it was designed from the viewpoint of a constituent," Moore said. "The innovative design makes county services and information available in a straightforward manner."

That straightforward manner may be key to producing a successful Web presence. Virtually all top finishers in the Best of the Web competition noted they were particularly mindful of making a visit to their government's Web site an enjoyable experience.

"Government portals have truly become the citizen gateway to services," said Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. "Capturing first place in the Best of the Web contest reflects their true

Kris Middaugh  |  Staff Writer