Last year, I visited at least a dozen state capitals and met with hundreds of state and local government professionals.

Approximately 60,000 miles later, what - besides which airports have the best restaurants and cheapest Wi-Fi access - did I learn from the experience?

A few things come to mind immediately.

First, there are a lot of dedicated public employees and government officials around the country struggling with tough - and often similar - challenges. IT leaders have plenty on their plates - consolidation, security, citizen services, disaster communication and a looming work force shortage. And these requirements must be met within the context of a worsening fiscal environment.

Second, even with the deck seemingly stacked against them, members of the government IT community manage to do some awfully good work.

This month, we acknowledge those efforts and accomplishments with our seventh annual Doers, Dreamers and Drivers issue. As always, it's dedicated to 25 individuals who we believe help set the standard for using technology to improve government.

We launched our Doers, Dreamers and Drivers issue in 2002, basing it on the notion that GT's editorial team and our corporate colleagues at Government Technology Conferences and the Center for Digital Government collectively interact with a huge number of public-sector professionals each year -- and many of these individuals are doing work that deserves and demands recognition.

Our rules for choosing the Top 25 are pretty simple: We look for people who cut through the public sector's infamous barriers to innovation - tight budgets, organizational inertia, politics as usual, etc. - to implement changes that reshaped government operations for the better. We also look for people who were not on our previous lists. For a look at past winners, browse any of our previous March issues - back to 2002 - in our archives.

As in previous years, this year's list cuts across jurisdictions and specialties. It includes CIOs, elected officials, law enforcement officers, emergency managers and agency directors. Despite their diversity, each member of our Top 25 found a way to use technology to further the mission of their organization, and ultimately improve the lives of citizens.

We believe these individuals represent the best and brightest in public-sector IT, and we're honored to present them as this year's Doers, Dreamers and Drivers.

Jim Argiropoulos, First Deputy, Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications 

George Bakolia, CIO, North Carolina 

Tim Barbee, Director of Research and Information Services, North Central Texas Council of Governments 

Bill Bott, Deputy CIO, Missouri 

Gordon Bruce, CIO and Director, Department of Information Technology, City and County of Honolulu

Jim Burns, CIO, Alabama 

Aneesh P. Chopra, Secretary of Technology, Virginia

Steve Fletcher, CIO, Utah

Craig Fugate, Director, Florida Division of Emergency Management 

Andy Hill, Information Services Director, Washington state Attorney General's Office

Ray Kelly, Police Commissioner, New York City

Steve Towns  |  Executive Editor