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Recognized Success.

Recognizing & showcasing innovations and best practices from around the country.

The Special Districts Awards Program is designed to recognize innovation and leadership within special district agencies across the country. An evaluation committee will review nominations in the three categories below and select award recipients. Winners will be presented their awards through a virtual national event. Submissions were entered by the public or private sector.

For any questions regarding the awards program or submission process please contact Janet Grenslitt.

Award Categories
Technology Innovation: Citizens

This category recognizes special districts that have utilized technology to improve service delivery to citizens – for example, making physical services available online, deploying new citizen engagement solutions, enhancing user experience, et al.

Technology Innovation: Operations

This category recognizes special districts that have utilized technology to improve internal operations with employees – for example, deploying new work from home initiatives, reengineering business processes, enhancing security measures, et al.

Technology Innovation: Leadership

This category recognizes special district leaders who have led innovative technology initiatives. The nomination should highlight vision, leadership and the use of information technology.

2020 Award Winners
  • metro waste authority.jpg
    Citizens Category: Metro Waste Authority - Online Citizen Supplies Ordering
    After closure of city hall and stores, MWA swiftly provided an online ordering option for purchasing stickers for large or extra garbage bags. Creating this interface required a cost/benefit analysis to properly group items for sale and develop the e-commerce infrastructure and internal tracking system.
  • St Louis County Library.jpg
    Citizens Category: St. Louis County Library - Digital Equity Initiative
    St. Louis County Government granted $4 million to SLCL to garner remote learning resources for under-equipped area school districts. In total, 39 school districts have benefited from SLCL’s Digital Equity Initiative. The library leveraged the grant funds for purchasing and distributing 10,000 hotspots, 2,500 Chromebooks and free virtual tutoring through
  • Western DuPage.jpg
    Citizens Category: Western DuPage Special Recreation Association - Transformation of Special Needs Programs During the Pandemic
    The association turned its programs virtual and educated participants and families on new ways to connect, engage and find respite. Many were empowered by learning new skills and gaining greater independence. On average, the association saw a 40 percent season-over-season increase.
  • Metro Airports Commission.jpg
    Operations Category: Metropolitan Airports Commission - EOC Data Visualization and the Lunch and Learn Series
    MAC created six data dashboards to visualize trends in aircraft takeoffs and landings, aircraft parking statistics and locations, passenger vehicle parking and movement data, staff availability, and personal protective equipment inventories. The dashboards enabled staff and the MAC Board of Commissioners to make critical decisions about reconstituting services for an efficient and thoughtful recovery for the airport. In addition, the Stakeholder Engagement department developed a virtual internal engagement program called “Lunch and Learn with CEO Brian Ryks” to help build connections and keep employees informed.
  • Ohio Turnpike.jpg
    Operations Category: Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission - Strategy Execution Program
    The primary goal of the Strategy Execution Program was to create a culture of teamwork, leadership and accountability that aligned around and executed the Ohio Turnpike’s strategic priorities. Even during tremendous challenges caused by the pandemic, the program yielded tangible, measurable improvements in tolling performance and increased management accountability and transparency.
  • Rockford Library.jpg
    Operations Category: Rockford Public Library - Laser-Cut Face Shields and 3D Printed Ear Guards
    The library’s Maker Lab used its laser cutter to create Plexiglas face shields and the 3D printers to create ear protectors for cloth face coverings for employees. The library created and delivered hundreds of the 3D-printed ear guards for MercyHealth supply chain to distribute to its health care workers, somewhat easing their strain as they cared for patients.
  • Jeffery Lakes.jpg
    Leadership Category: Jeffrey E. Small - Chief Information Officer, Great Lakes Water Authority
    Under the leadership of Small, the IT Group swiftly enacted needed hardware, network and application changes that enabled as many team members as possible to work remotely. In addition to addressing immediate and ongoing technology support for worker productivity, the IT Group quickly performed a reassessment and reprioritization of the entire IT Project Portfolio.
  • Omar Sandival.jpg
    Leadership Category: Omar Sandoval - Information Technology Director, Naperville Park District
    Sandoval’s leadership inspired transformation to vital digital resources for residents such as youth arts, dance, fitness classes, podcasts, party ideas and field trips. The park district reinvented sports to become esports by partnering with a private sector company that provides cross-platform leagues (players can use any system whether Xbox, PS4 or PC).
  • Anita Forte_Scott.jpg
    Leadership Category - Anita Forte-Scott - President, Board of Trustees, Schaumburg Township District Library
    Forte-Scott spearheaded the extension of the library’s digital resources to school and high school district students and their families, and even to those living outside the service area. To assist the community, the library also cancelled all fines and passed a $1.5 million abatement on the property tax library line item, resulting in a 9.4 percent reduction in taxes.
  • districts-brushy-creek-municipal.jpg
    Citizens Category: Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District - Safe Activities for Youth, Adults and Seniors
    During the pandemic, the district leveraged technology to quickly respond to the needs of citizens, like offering fitness and other classes over Zoom and social media; assisting families with online learning; and utilizing electronic signage, e-newsletters, websites, Constant Contact and social media to keep residents informed on important safety information.
  • Capital metro logo.jpg
    Citizens Category: Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Real-Time Passenger Capacity
    Cap Metro provides real-time alerts through its mobile app and on digital messages at stations when an arriving bus reaches 50 percent seating capacity. Real-time passenger counts are provided to bus operations and dispatchers so they can add more vehicles to reduce crowding and provide for social distancing.
  • RIO Metro_Logo.jpg
    Citizens Category: Rio Metro Regional Transit District - Freedom to Ride
    Rio Metro connects up to 4,000 veterans every month to critical services by allowing them to travel to VA major medical facilities, therapy, recreation and more without having to ask for a ride. Cloud-based mobile kiosks throughout the district provide onsite education and print free train passes.
  • Central Arkansas.jpg
    Operations Category: Central Arkansas Library System - Meal Site Assistance
    Central Arkansas Library System’s Be Mighty campaign mobilized its network of community partners and volunteers to distribute over 750,000 meals to families in Pulaski County. The system also made meal site information available online via, listing meal sites and serving times as well as an interactive map.
  • HA El Paso.jpg
    Operations Category: Housing Authority of the City of El Paso - Rent Café
    The Rent Café allows residents to pay rent, apply for programs or get on waiting lists, apply for eligibility certifications and upload documents using a computer or smartphone. The system was in place about a year before the pandemic and proved invaluable during the crisis.
  • North texas Council.jpg
    Operations Category: North Central Texas Council of Governments - Texas Unemployment Insurance Claims Assistance
    By partnering with TWC, NCTCOG created a framework of technology interoperation to handle claims applications and tracking to help tackle the mountain of unemployment insurance claims. There are plans to roll this out to additional workforce centers across the state.
  • districts-jesus-reyes.jpg
    Leadership Category: Jesus Reyes - General Manager, El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1
    Since 2000, Reyes led a series of technology innovation initiatives allowing the district to modernize its operations, increase water use efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure the resiliency and sustainability of the very limited water supplies available to the El Paso region.
  • districts-touchless-flight-boarding.jpg
    Leadership Category: Touchless Flight-Boarding Development Team - Houston Airport System
    The IT development team of Kevin Cloteaux and Jarvis Henson launched facial biometric comparison for a touchless international flight boarding experience to help reduce the contact of passengers due to COVID-19.
  • districts-jayson-penton.jpg
    Leadership Category: Jayson "JP" Penton - Director of Platform and Cloud Services, Lower Colorado River Authority
    Thanks to Penton and his team, LCRA was well prepared with the infrastructure and bandwidth needed to seamlessly transition to a remote workforce when the pandemic suddenly arrived. Now Penton is leading efforts to finish installing a mobility platform and increasing bandwidth to improve user experience.
  • districts-brunswick-regional-water.jpg
    Citizens Category: Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO - Advanced Metering Technology
    The district replaced 11,000 water meters with new, advanced meters that track and send usage data with wireless technology. Carbon emissions have been reduced from taking meter-reading vehicles off the road, leaks are detected and stopped faster, and customers can now receive daily information on water use.
  • districts-the-childrens-trust.jpg
    Citizens Category: The Children's Trust - StayHome.Miami and the Book Club
    StayHome.Miami features activities for infants to teenagers with original content developed by its service provides and partnering organizations, like read-aloud and storytelling books read by celebrities over video. In addition, The Children’s Trust created a renewed excitement around early reading by expanding its book club for three-year-olds to serve all children from birth to the age of five. To meet an increase in the number of books being mailed, a new IT solution was deployed that reduced staff by 75 percent and increased functionality such as making it easier for parents to register and update information.
  • districts-lee-county-library.jpg
    Citizens Category: Lee County Library System - Mobile Services and the Virtual Storytime and Fandom Fest
    When COVID-19 hit, the library system relied on technology to transition its Supercharged Storytime program online, turn its annual Fandom Fest celebration into a four-week long virtual event and continue its bookmobile services through contactless deposit collections.
  • districts-charleston-county-park.jpg
    Operations Category: Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission - Electronic Onboarding Project
    The commission custom-built an online onboarding solution and launched it in two months for the summer season, which allows new employee candidates to complete and sign paperwork and process W-4s and direct deposit forms electronically.
  • districts-ecua.jpg
    Operations Category: ECUA Information Technology Department - Remote Workers and COVID-19 Operations
    The IT department’s rapid response to COVID-19 included creation of a VPN service for employees, a VPN portal and an application portal to perform remote work. The portal and the app saved bandwidth which allowed the customer service phone lines to remain operational.
  • Dr_Xue_Photo.jpg
    Leadership Category: Dr. Rui-De Xue - Executive Director, Anastasia Mosquito Control District
    After the state lab was redirected to test for COVID-19, Dr. Xue built and enhanced mosquito virus surveillance and testing in-house. He increased aerial staffing to control hot spots for mosquito larvae and recruited four scientists to find grants and funds for applied research and technology.
  • districts-brian-benn.jpg
    Leadership Category: Brian Benn - Chief Information Officer, Atlanta Housing
    Benn had a digital transformation vision with three major enterprise-wide initiatives: implementing a business continuity plan/business process assessment, enhancing cybersecurity, and bridging the digital divide by creating and spearheading the ACCESS initiative (Achieving Connectivity to Create Equity and Self Sufficiency). He also established a partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology's H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering so Atlanta Housing could leverage the expertise of the best and brightest academia has to offer to better serve participants and the community.
  • districts-laetitia-dobson.jpg
    Leadership Category: Laetitia "Tish" Dobson - District Lodge Manager, The Preserve at Wilderness Lake CDD
    Dobson responded proactively to the sudden onset of the pandemic with a comprehensive plan that CDDs across Florida used as a blueprint. It included: • Shutting down communal spaces which was executed through email, automated messages and custom signage. • Informing residents and transitioning to a virtual community space through eblasts, a website and newsletters, and holding public board meetings over Zoom. • Reopening with new social distancing policies and equitable access to scarce time slots and spaces in public venues, which was achieved through automated online and phone reservations.
  • Chester Housing Logo.jpg
    Citizens Category: Chester Housing Authority - Building Community Video Series
    The authority developed a new weekly videos series called “Building Community” to bring together community members and local experts in areas such as health and family issues to discuss topics of relevance to Chester residents each week.
  • districts-delaware-river-port.jpg
    Citizens Category: Delaware River Port Authority - Solar Carport System
    The installation of solar carports with more than 50,000 solar panels provides covered parking and renewable energy that replaces 50 percent of the entire electrical consumption. The solar production will also be interconnected to the electrification system that directly powers the train cars.
  • districts-westchester-library.jpg
    Citizens Category: Westchester Library System - Senior Services
    Working with the 38 member libraries and nonprofit partners, the WLS Department of Public Innovation and Engagement (PIE) transitioned critical services to a virtual environment, with webinars, interactive workshops and a dedicated phone/email helpline service. Tablets, laptops and hotspots were deployed to assist in the county’s We Count 2020 Census initiative and to schools and libraries that needed them for their students.
  • districts-brunswick-sewer.jpg
    Operations Category: Brunswick Sewer District - Technology Investment and Preparation for COVID-19
    Over the past decade, the district has invested in its personnel, facilities and equipment to prepare it for a situation like COVID. All operators have smartphones and unlimited data plans, and the plant and stations can all be monitored and controlled from their phones. Tablets and Chromebooks are utilized for remote operations, the district has multiple communication channels, systems are backed up and management is adaptive.
  • districts-new-york-power.jpg
    Operations Category: New York Power Authority - COVID-19 Response
    NYPA was able to continue providing power to the state of New York by moving its 1,800 employees to remote work in just five days. Most importantly, NYPA provided critically needed power to established medical centers, field hospitals, makeshift tent health facilities and a converted convention center.
  • districts-philadelphia-parking.jpg
    Operations Category: Philadelphia Parking Authority - Safe Work Playbook
    The Safe Work Playbook, created in coordination with its inner agencies and divisions, allowed the authority to re-engineer its processes and practices and initiated safety protocols for employees working in the field, the office or remote. For instance, auto-dialing software enabled employees to receive robocalls and robotexts with notifications and emergency messages, and technology tools and electronic devices allowed employees to receive daily alerts through the website and social media pages.
  • districts-wssc-water.jpg
    Operations Category: WSSC Water - Operational Continuity for the Pandemic
    WSSC had established an Office of Homeland Security and Police that had written plans for emergencies such as water main breaks and even a pandemic. The office has an Operational Continuity Team that dealt with the sudden transition to working remotely. WSSC also created new virtual classes and curriculum for employees to maintain state certifications.
  • districts-john-hanson.jpg
    Leadership Category: John Hanson - Chief Executive Officer, Delaware River Port Authority
    Hanson led the development of the "The Journey Back to the Workplace Phased Re-Entry Plan," which includes an internal cross-functional task force to review and adapt policies and practices to maintain safe and effective operations, an internal employee survey that guided policy and helped develop a COVID-19 Workplace Resource Center portal, and a COVID-19 daily self-screening form.
  • districts-richard-dickson.jpg
    Leadership Category: Richard Dickson - First Deputy Executive Director, Philadelphia Parking Authority
    Dickson created a “return to work” playbook that anticipated phased implementation with 50 percent of the staff working in offices on any given day. To make this happen, he implemented contact-free time clocks, physical workstation dividers, Infrared thermometers, RFID badges and a video “walking tour” for workers to view online before their arrival back in the office.
  • districts-brian-j-valentino.jpg
    Leadership Category: Brian J. Valentino, MPA, CEAS, ICMA-CM - Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, Western Monmouth Utilities Authority
    Valentino proactively created a weekly coordination meeting with other regional sewerage authorities within Monmouth and Middlesex Counties when the pandemic hit. The topics discussed, such as staffing levels, testing procedures, travel policies, funding opportunities, office modifications, public meetings and resource sharing including PPE, helped state government officials create guidelines and legislature. As a result, the authority has not had a single positive case of COVID-19 and is able to provide the same level of service as before the pandemic.
  • Cordova_Logo.jpg
    Citizens Category: Cordova Recreation and Park District - Drone-filmed Virtual Pool-Building Outreach and Groundbreaking Video
    The district created a Virtual Pool Outreach Campaign to share the aquatic center’s renovation project groundbreaking and status with the public. Drones will also be used to give an inside look into construction. Once completed, it will be a state-of-the-art recreational space for families of all types.
  • MCE_Logo.jpg
    Citizens Category: MCE - Public Meetings Live-Streamed via Zoom
    MCE was enrolling approximately 10,000 new customers in its service, which is typically accompanied by robust public outreach largely in the form of in-person presentations. Due to COVID-19, these meetings were moved to a digital format across multiple platforms. After successfully implementing these meetings, MCE's Board of Director meetings also took this format.
  • Orange_County_Water_Logo.jpg
    Citizens Category: Orange County Water District - Virtual Outreach Response to COVID-19
    When access to the OCWD facility and H2O Learning Center was restricted suddenly due to the pandemic, the district created a COVID-19 webpage, virtual tours, virtual community meetings, monthly “water education webinars” and student virtual outdoor education programs, such as water quality experiments.
  • districts-bremerton.jpg
    Operations Category: Bremerton Housing Authority, WA - Telecommuting Implementation
    Although management of low-income housing is considered an essential function, the authority implemented emergency telecommuting for 50 percent of its staff, including use of Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Customers and stakeholders were supported extremely well, resulting in telecommuting becoming permanent.
  • districts-mason-county.jpg
    Operations Category: Mason County Public Utility District No. 1 - Pandemic Response Plan
    PUD 1 was the first agency in Mason County, Wash., to implement a pandemic response plan, which included implementing a paid leave policy for people impacted by COVID-19, splitting the workforce into two shifts that worked alternate weeks and establishing remote workstations. Productivity increased by allowing employees to utilize virtual options for travel and meetings, there has been a reduction in unscheduled absences and use of sick leave, and a decrease in lead time for new service requests.
  • districts-placentia-library-district.jpg
    Operations Category: Placentia Library District - Virtual Programs and Staff-made Masks
    The district outfitted its team with tools to work from home like laptops and hot spots, Remote PC, SharePoint and Zoom. This enabled the district to offer its popular services and programs virtually like literacy tutoring, book club and storytimes. The staff also established a volunteer Sewing Committee to assemble, sew and mail masks to Placentia residents in need. One thousand masks were mailed to residents within one month.
  • LA_Metro_logo.jpg
    Leadership Category: Bryan M. Sastokas - Chief Information and Technology Officer, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
    During the pandemic, Sastokas’ transparency in actions and communications and empathetic approach made his staff feel like a team while working remotely -- especially during his “virtual coffee hour” and staff town halls. He refocused ITS’ priorities and issued new KPIs and goals so staff did not feel overwhelmed and could meet the changes in demand for service.
  • Meridian Logo.jpg
    Leadership Category: Meridian Library District - Book Service Delivery
    MLD quickly pivoted and launched new online services such as virtual storytimes and reference chat through its website. The district also implemented a new home delivery service that will continue beyond the pandemic to keep pace with its fast-growing community.
  • Jason_Frame.jpg
    Leadership Category: Jason Frame - Chief Information Officer, Southern Nevada Health District
    When COVID-19 hit the Las Vegas Valley, the district already had some of the newest technologies implemented. Frame not only transitioned the workforce remote, he added over 300 new employees quickly. Frame was able to get many vendors to enable trial licensing to better understand business requirements and systems. For example, he implemented virtual signatures, greatly reducing paperwork and processing time for signatures required by the governor’s office.
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