It’s a tough time to work in the public sector. As I write this, thousands of protesters in Wisconsin are battling Gov. Scott Walker over plans to reduce health and pension benefits and alter collective bargaining rights for state workers. Walker says the changes are needed to help close a $3.6 billion budget gap.

Similar proposals have sprouted in states like Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana, according to news reports, as governors look for ways to cut government spending. These developments follow what have already been several bad years for state and local agencies, many of which furloughed or laid off employees as the recession deepened.

I won’t comment on the merits of Walker’s plan. But with the mood of the nation swinging against public employees, it’s a good time to recognize some of their contributions to society. In that respect, the timing of our annual Doers, Dreamers and Drivers issue couldn’t be better.

Since 2002, we’ve dedicated the March issue of Government Technology to 25 people who’ve used technology to improve government performance, boost efficiency and strengthen citizen services. This year, we honor a stellar group of individuals from state and local government and academia — as well as a few from the private sector — for deploying innovative technologies and IT policies that addressed a wide range of public-sector challenges.

For instance, one individual led efforts to create visualization technology that revolutionized how emergency crews respond to disasters. Another recently opened one of the nation’s most sophisticated facilities for monitoring and tracking cyber-security threats. Still another sparked ongoing conversations between local government and technology companies that’s leading to productive changes in software maintenance fees.

With the recession forcing governments throughout the nation to rethink how they maintain key functions and deliver critical services, the need to innovate has never been greater. That’s where members of our 2011 Top 25 truly shine. This year’s Doers, Dreamers and Drivers showed the courage, conviction and vision to address long-standing problems and transform government operations in an extremely tough environment.

I’d like to congratulate the 2011 Top 25 and thank them for their service. And I invite all of you to read their individual profiles.

Steve Towns  |  Executive Editor