Texas’ best and brightest government IT projects and professionals were honored Thursday, July 12, with the Center for Digital Government’s (CDG) Best of Texas Awards.

The annual awards program spotlights the top government IT efforts over the past year in the state, including in-house developed applications, green IT and program management. This year, 25 awards were given out — two IT Leadership honors, 12 Project Excellence awards and 11 Outstanding Service and Support awards.

Leatha Mullins, chief technology officer for Dallas County Schools (DCS), is one of two individuals who received an IT Leadership award. Mullins leads a team of IT professionals that provides managed technology services for more than 1,200 school districts in Texas, including 2,000 professionals and roughly 425,000 students.

Some of Mullins’ accomplishments included bringing interactive classrooms to schools, providing real-time tools for bus drivers to help pick up and drop off students, and strategic technology planning and development.

In an email to Government Technology, Rick Sorrells, superintendent of DCS, said Mullins pours her heart and soul into bringing value to the services DCS provides, no matter what the issue is. Whether it’s researching new technology, modifying implementations or creating solutions to match user needs, Sorrells felt she was the embodiment of dedication to both DCS and technology.

“Some people simply think outside the box, [but] Leatha lives outside the box,” Sorrells wrote. “In doing so, she has brought innovation and recognition to Dallas County Schools and to her profession. Truly she exemplifies this award.”

Bexar County received a Project Excellence award in the category of Best In-House Developed Application for its online parks reservation system. Now featuring a 360-degree panoramic virtual tour and online payment options for pavilions, kitchens and other park amenities, the new system replaced a manual and paper-based reservation process.

Todd Alvis, e-services manager with Bexar County Information Technology, wrote in an email to Government Technology that the biggest challenge of the project was converting the paper-based process into a streamlined, user-friendly online approach. He said it was an honor to be named by the Center for Digital Government as one of the best projects in Texas. [Editor’s Note: Government Technology and the Center for Digital Government are owned by parent company e.Republic Inc.]

“There is great pride in being able to automate county processes that maximize resources and reduce time for staff and the general public, [and] also gratification in knowing the number of reservations have increased and that revenue has doubled,” Alvis wrote.

Harris County’s mobile requests application was honored in the category of "Best Mobile/Wireless Project” The app allows county citizens to submit non-emergency requests using a smartphone or tablet device.

The app is connected to GPS, so a user simply snaps a photo of an issue such as a pothole, and the app attaches a location to the photo. Then a user selects the appropriate category and sends the request to the county.

Bruce High, CIO of Harris County, said in an email that receiving the “Best of Texas” award is an honor and shows the county is achieving its goal of providing great service to citizens. But he conceded that integrating mobile technology with an in-house, custom-built service tracking application was a challenge.

The requests coming from the mobile app needed to be parsed out to avoid one department being “snowballed” with tasks. So a bridge was built to alleviate that and provide the ability to repeat the functionality the app was designed for.

“We developed a Web service that allowed the transfer of the data from our mobile application to the service tracking application which then can be routed to multiple departments for resolution,” High wrote.

Below is a full list of the 2012 Best of Texas winners.

LEADERSHIP AWARDS

Demonstrated Leadership in Management of Information Technology    

Leatha Mullins, chief technology officer, Dallas County Schools

Demonstrated Excellence in Project Management

Nanette Monte, IT project consultant, City of Fort Worth

PROJECT EXCELLENCE AWARDS

Best Application Serving the Public

Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) Redesign Project

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

Best Application Serving the Public

Texas Permitting and Routing Optimization System (TxPROS)

Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

Best Application Serving an Agency’s Business Needs

Benefits Pension Administration System (BPAS) Project

Texas Employee Retirement System

Best Application Serving an Agency’s Business Needs

City of Austin’s Flood Early Warning System

The Green IT Award

Communications Technology Management Green IT Program

City of Austin

The Green IT Award

Efficiency by Design

Lone Star College System

Best IT Collaboration Among Organizations

Foundation School Program – Bond Programs

Texas Education Agency

Best IT Collaboration Among Organizations

IT Support of Child Abduction Response Team

City of Bryan

Best In-House Developed Application

Bexar County Online Parks Reservation System

Best Mobile/Wireless Project

Harris County Mobile Service Request

Most Innovative Use of Social Media

“Tweet-Along” – Virtual Ride-Along on Twitter

City of Arlington Police

                   

Special Award for Government Transparency and Citizen Engagement

Senate Committee App

Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce

OUTSTANDING IT SERVICE AND SUPPORT AWARDS

  • Shawnette Brown, Senior HR Analyst, City of Fort Worth
  • Matt “Mateo” Esquibel, Web Services Supervisor, City of Austin
  • Sgt. Maj. Thomas Gleason, NCOIC, Texas State Guard
  • Tom Jenkinson, Project Manager, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services
  • Bryan McKay, Lead Systems Support Specialist, Texas Workforce Commission
  • Lance Menchu, Systems Analyst, Texas Office of the Attorney General
  • Kyle Neely, PMO Manager, Texas Employee Retirement System
  • Bich Nguyen, Programmer/DBA, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
  • Ana Perez, IT Budget and Procurement Manager, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
  • Diana Taylor, Project Manager, Texas Project Management Office, Data Center Services Transition
  • Priya Venkatesan, Systems Analyst VI, Texas Employees Retirement System

     

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.