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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 were 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.

2021 Winners
Midwest
  • Forest Preserves - Award Citizens Category for Forest Presreves of Cook County.JPG
    Citizen Category: Forest Preserves of Cook County - Interactive Map
    The Forest Preserves partnered with Smart Chicago to build a custom interactive, open-source web map for computer and mobile devices that helps visitors plan trips and navigate forest preserves and trails. In 2020, more than 250,000 people used the web map to plan a visit to the Preserves.
  • Julia Schick - Citizens Category Laketran - EZfare App and Contactless Validators.jpg
    Citizens Category: Laketran, EZfare App and Contactless Validators
    To socially distance, Laketran initiated mandatory rear door boarding on buses and launched the EZfare mobile payment app in partnership with seven other smaller systems. Laketran also installed fare validators that enable the electronic validation of all major transport ticketing.
  • Metroparks Toledo MW Citz 2021.jpg
    Citizens Category: Metroparks Toledo - Virtual Camps, Stay-Cations and Virtualized Resources
    Metroparks Toledo compiled three months of virtual content into themed weeks and released it daily on social media and their new webpage. They provided a free online camp experience combined with downloaded home activities to nearly 18,000 campers. Metroparks also offered seven live “stay-cations” for individual families, including camping for beginners, biking/kayaking trips and tree tent/hammocking-at-heights experiences.
  • Jeff Small - Great Lakes Water Authority  Operations Category IT Security Risk Reduction Program.png
    Operations Category: Great Lakes Water Authority - IT Security Risk Reduction Program
    GLWA initiated a program that significantly reduced information security risk. It included multifactor authentication for remote work and a more robust training and awareness program with a focus on practices users can implement to avoid phishing scams.
  • mcHenry Logo 2.jpg
    Operations Category: McHenry County Conservation District - Pandemic Preparedness Response and Recovery Team
    Before the pandemic, the district had already prepared a 15-month Pandemic Preparedness Response and Recovery Team. Marketing made certain the community was updated about operational changes and the benefits of outside recreation. IT worked with remote staff to provide connectivity to residents and assist in setting up remote workspaces.
  • Scott Johanning - Award_1.jpg
    Operations Category: Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District - Service Catalog and Self-Service Portal
    MMSD developed an internal system and portal for knowledge and service requests management, which provides a centralized location to view requests and a standard method to build benchmarks and track performance metrics. Approximately every three months a new department deployed their service catalog into the self-service portal which further improved ticket classification accuracy and response time.
  • John Sudduth - Sudduth_MWRD.jpg
    Leadership Category: John H. Sudduth, Chief Information Officer - Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
    As CIO at MWRD Chicago, Sudduth transformed the IT department from a break/fix help desk into a strategic thought partner with a five-year technology strategic plan emphasizing IT alignment with business. Sudduth reorganized the IT department, completely revamped internal controls and implemented a standardized IT governance framework.
  • Brian Kelley - AT&T and Government Technology Award Photo.jpg
    Leadership Category: Brian D. Kelley, Chief Technology Officer - Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission
    As CTO at the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, Kelley enhanced both current and future operations by leading the solar energy development initiative, the implementation of a shared services computer-aided dispatch solution and working with the project team on toll modernization project, as well as co-managing connected vehicle pilot projects.
  • Brian Grubbs - Brian_Grubbs_2021_Special_Districts_Technology_Innovation_Leadership.jpg
    Leadership Category: Brian Grubbs, Local History and Genealogy Manager - Springfield-Greene County Library District
    Grubbs has led the digitization of the history of Missouri and the Ozarks with several initiatives, including Enduring COVID-19 in the Ozarks, Show Me Missouri, a partnership with Newspapers.com and mentoring others in digitization. He connected the public with historic events, individuals with library resources and organizations through partnerships, and created a digital archive resource for researchers.
Southwest
  • BiblioTech Logo.png
    Citizens Category: BiblioTech Public Library - Bridging the Digital Divide
    BiblioTech focuses on digital collections and providing internet/technology access. Branches are strategically placed in high-need areas and provide digital literacy classes for all ages, computer access, a device-lending program with hotspots and free internet access, and tablets patrons can take home.
  • Janet Grenslitt - Denco Area 911 District Award Photo SW Ops 21.jpg
    Citizens Category: Denco Area 9-1-1 District - Indoor Mapping for 911 Calls
    The district initiated indoor maps to address the challenges of locating 9-1-1 callers indoors. They provide better situational awareness for responders, offer visual representation for key buildings, and improve emergency response times by transitioning from a simple dot on a map to a dot on an accurate graphical floorplan labeled with specific room names/numbers.
  • David Zappasodi - Citizens Category -Special Districts Program Award Winner for 2021 -Technology Innovations–InspectionMate.jpg
    Citizens Category: DHA - Housing Solutions for North Texas - Technology Innovations - InspectionMate
    With the InspectionMate system, landlords are notified when the inspection is taking place, inspector travel is messaged as they approach and landlords can virtually participate. DHA has reduced inspection turnaround times from weeks to 48 hours, allowing the 17,000 families DHA helps support to move into their homes faster.
  • Alex Harper - OperationsCategory_CentralArkansasWater_GISInnovativeCrisisResponse4.jpg
    Operations Category: Central Arkansas Water - GIS Innovative Crisis Response
    During a record-setting snowstorm, GIS technology was crucial in tracking service and main breaks that were draining the system and causing a water shortage. In sometimes 18 inches of snow, GIS was utilized to find the exact locations of valves and meters. Repairs were enabled quickly and CAW did not have to issue a boil water notice and did not run out of water.
  • KELLY O'BRIAN - 2021 Special Districts Southwest Technology Innovation Award - NTMWD.jpg
    Operations Category: North Texas Municipal Water District - Automated Accounts Payable Workflow
    The district’s digital process designer used the enterprise content management system to design an automated workflow, including automated and escalating emails and matching of corresponding invoices. The new workflow has saved NTMWD an estimated $825,000 over the past three years.
  • Gulf Coast Authority Logo.jpg
    Operations Category: Gulf Coast Authority - Virtual Meeting and Collaboration Tools
    At the beginning of the pandemic, the IT department rapidly deployed additional resources to support social distancing and virtual meeting technology. As the pandemic extended, IT implemented more communication and data handling on an ongoing basis. Today, meetings are routinely conducted virtually across all functions of the organization including Board of Director meetings.
  • Eric Whaley - Award Photo for GovTech.jpg
    Leadership Category: District Team - Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District
    Texas was hit with a winter storm that left millions without power and running water. The district team kept water available by quick and sustained efforts at the Water Treatment Facility, such as insulating all exposed equipment, shutting down non-essential equipment and making 15 trips that day to the nearby gas station when the fuel delivery truck couldn’t get through.
  • Jonathan Tanzer - Jonathan Tanzer Capital Metro - Southwest Leadership Category.JPEG
    Leadership Category: Jonathan Tanzer, PMP, Technology Systems Program Manager - Capital Metro
    Tanzer’s collaborative leadership style bridges technology and business and has been essential in the development of his team of project managers. Transit tools implemented include the transit-on-demand micro-transit “pickup” service, onboard digital displays integrated to real-time data feeds and innovative customer payment systems.
  • Peggy Brady - Peggy Brady Special Districts Award 2021.jpeg
    Leadership Category: Peggy Brady, Director, Workforce Digital Services - Lower Colorado River Authority
    Despite pandemic challenges, Brady improved speed of resolution when employees asked for help and made reliable on-demand tools available to every employee. She recruited over 300 volunteers from across LCRA business units for a proof-of-concept test group, reduced her teams’ Service Desk call abandonment rate to 3.6 percent, and improved patching workflow and patch timing to ensure remote worker success.
Southeast
  • Janet Grenslitt - Anastasia Mosq Control SE Citz 21 AMCDpicture.jpg
    Citizens Category: Anastasia Mosquito Control District - Service Request Mobile App
    The free mobile app for service requests and tracking can be downloaded from any App Store. More than 50 percent of service requests received by AMCD in 2020 were through the new app; telephone service requests were reduced by 50 percent; and repeated requests were reduced by 40 percent.
  • Linda Rothstein - Citizens Category Clearwater Public Library System - Memvelope Digitized Memories Service horizontal.jpeg
    Citizens Category: Clearwater Public Library System - Memvelope Digitized Memories Service
    This no-cost, pick up and drop off “memory envelope” digital conversion service is provided for residents to fill a Memvelope with a variety of items and staff will digitize and provide storage media or a link to an online storage destination. Video, audio, film and photos can be submitted. No library card is required.
  • Sarah Kelliher - Citizens Category Lake Apopka Natural Gas District.jpg
    Citizens Category: Lake Apopka Natural Gas District - Helping Hand Fund
    A formal partnership with Florida United Way launched the district’s first-ever customer assistance program, Helping Hand. Customers with a past due account that meet a specific set of criteria can apply for financial assistance through an online portal for up to $350 per household annually.
  • Matt Brown - Matt Brown - Hillsborough County Aviation Authority - Operations Category - Southeast District.jpg
    Operations Category: Hillsborough County Aviation Authority - Real-Time Inventory Using Mobile Devices
    This mobile-capable, user-friendly, secure application utilizes barcodes that identify inventory items. It allows users to search available inventories on phones, tablets or laptops. Users can then quickly check out inventory items from central and satellite warehouses with a shopping cart experience.
  • Mazen A Chilet - thumbnail_IMG_1224.jpg
    Operations Category: Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission - Digital Transformation for the Modern Workplace
    With the pandemic outbreak, M-NCPPC accelerated its ongoing digital transformation initiative (DTI) to warp speed. E-routing, digital signatures and automated onboarding were established. Enhanced cloud security measures, end-user security awareness and expanded VPN technology were implemented. Desktop-as-a-Service was rapidly deployed to handle the nearly 650 remote staff who were logged in concurrently.
  • Heather Mazurkiewicz - North Collier Fire Technology Awrd 2021 1.jpeg
    Operations Category: North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District - Pre-Hospital Care Wireless Monitor and Defibrillator Technology
    The district invested in equipment that provides wireless connectivity to the emergency room or physicians’ offices/medical facilities, which can reduce wait times and/or unnecessary trips to the emergency room. The equipment also connects wirelessly to share and transfer vitals, respiratory waveforms and images to provide high-quality emergency responder care.
  • Bob Walker - 2021 Technology Innovation Leadership - Bob Walker.jpeg
    Leadership Category: Bob Walker, Executive Director - Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO
    Walker ensured all customers were equipped with advanced meters, led the consolidation of services with the Town of Leland, and is spearheading the Aquifer-Sourced Reverse Osmosis Treatment Plant project that will bring clean, contaminant-free water to over 30,000 people in northern Brunswick County, N.C.
  • Pamela Flasch - Leadership_Tricia_Kilgore.PNG
    Leadership Category: Tricia Kilgore, P.E., Director of Technology and Innovation - Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority
    Kilgore is committed to sustainable practices for the authority’s facilities and operations. Located in a tidal marshland, projects include swamp reclamation, innovative irrigation programs, construction of a sustainable facility and energy-saving improvements. Kilgore also created a carbon-footprint calculator, identified facilities with the largest footprint and evaluated their solar power costs.
  • Janet Grenslitt - Dana Smith, Anastasia Mosq Cntl Distr SE Leadership award 21.jpg
    Leadership Category: Dana Smith, Chief Pilot and Aviation Manager - Anastasia Mosquito Control District
    Through Smith’s leadership and organizational skill, the district’s aerial unit expanded by two full-time pilots, an A&P Mechanic and two helicopters from military surplus at $180,000 each. In addition, he purchased many parts from the surplus, saving the district over $1 million.
Northeast
  • Quincy Housing Authority NE Citz 21.jpg
    Citizens Category: Quincy Housing Authority - On-site Video Displays, Kiosks and Touch-View Monitors
    To keep residents informed, engaged and safe during the pandemic, QHA installed stand up video displays in lobbies with current information on vaccination schedules, meals on wheels and the farmers’ market. Touch-view monitors were installed for tenant and staff video meetings and kiosks allowed residents to scan and email, access the internet, and contact the staff.
  • Julie Quigley - Northeast 2021 Citizens Category PWSA CS Managers' Award.jpg
    Citizens Category: Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority - Virtual Customer Service
    Working with MIS and Public Affairs teams, Customer Service managers converted all in-person services to online web forms. The managers conduct weekly virtual staff meetings and trainings to ensure the metrics and Public Utility Commission goals are met or exceeded. They have instituted after-call customer surveys -- for over 10,000 customers contacted, the satisfaction rating is 4.73 out of 5.
  • Denise Beck - Glenn Fenton - Special District Award.jpg
    Citizens Category: Greater Portland METRO, Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit, South Portland Bus Service - DiriGo Pass
    The new electronic fare system includes a mobile app, new website and smartcards. Smartcards provide easy access for riders who are unbanked, don’t have smartphones or just prefer using a card that can be reloaded. Information and demonstration sessions were held via Zoom, videos and social media.
  • Janet Grenslitt - NY Power Auth Award Photo 2 2021.png
    Operations Category: New York Power Authority - Data Governance, Quality and Analytics Platform
    The analytics platform assures data used across the enterprise is clean and normalized. It provides a development space for building, testing, and deploying algorithms and models for production. Data from the visualization tool can be ported into the platform for business and operations to create their own reports.
  • Andrew Liebowitz - BLevine_ADEP_Northeast_Operations_101921.jpg
    Operations Category: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - Airline Data Entry Portal
    The portal allows airlines to directly submit operating and billing data to the Port Authority, providing critical business intelligence weeks sooner than previously. For example, the Monthly Air Traffic Reporting screen alone does the work of hundreds of Excel workbooks. In addition, validation rules ensure all data is checked for integrity before submission.
  • Julia Leopold - Special District Award_VPPSA 2.jpg
    Operations Category: Vermont Public Power Supply Authority - Transition to Virtual Operation
    Having a virtual private network and a videoconference platform prior to the onset of the pandemic enabled all VPPSA staff to work remotely without any significant issues. The Technology and Security Services department jumped into action to ensure VPPSA’s 11 municipal electric utility members experienced a smooth transition.
  • EMetro Logo copy.png
    Leadership Category: Jeremy Peterson, Chief Executive Officer - Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority
    Peterson has prioritized the safety and protection of fleet operators and passengers throughout the pandemic. He ensured social distancing, cashless mobile ticketing, bus rotation, intensive sanitation and nightly deep bus fleet scrubs were adhered to by the EMTA.
  • Janet Grenslitt - Leadership NE Jacqueline Harris Philadelphia Pkg Auth.png
    Leadership Category: Jacqueline Harris, Chief Information Technology Officer - Philadelphia Parking Authority
    Harris pioneered a system that enabled employees working remotely to complete tasks through a single device without using their personal WiFi. A Samsung Galaxy S20+ phone was set up to function as a Chromebook platform with an internal WiFi connection and a monitor function that allows phone calls to be made while simultaneously accessing the back-end ticketing system.
  • Marla Martin - Marla Martin Woodbury Public Library.jpg
    Leadership Category: Marla Martin, Teen Librarian - Woodbury Public Library
    Immediately after the pandemic caused library closure, Martin researched family-friendly, entertaining, and challenging videos to share, compiling them into a daily digest “Just Checking In” for the newsletter. These popular emails, shared world-wide, have morphed into segments about books, arts and community programs with a daily open rate over 30 percent.
West
  • Becky Haycox - fathomwerxteam-unmasked.jpg
    Citizens Category: Oxnard Harbor District/Port of Hueneme - Fathomwerx On-Site Makerspace and STEM Education
    The FATHOMWERX collaboration, located onsite at the port, is a technological test and build site for first responders, UAV and drones, and community businesses. Donations from the Navy of more than $3.5 million contribute to the lab and makerspace. Over 300 local high school STEM students attend the annual Expo.
  • John Sheller - Lisa G Rosenblum KCLS 2021 GovTech Award for Technology Innovation Special District.jpg
    Citizens Category: King County Library System - Leveraging Technology to Bridge the Digital Divide
    To bridge the digital divide for at-risk populations most affected by the pandemic, KCLS purchased 270 Wi-Fi hotspots with data plans, 220 remote patron laptops and teleconferencing technology, and introduced contact-free lockers for materials pickup. The hotspots and laptops were delivered to designated assisted living and retirement centers, homeless communities, refugee organizations and service provider locations.
  • Jamie Hawk - SpecialDistricts2021_West_TechnologyInnovationAward_CitizensCategory_MidpenOpenSpace_WildlandFireWebMap3.jpg
    Citizens Category: Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District - Wildland Fire Web Map
    Until this map was created, information on the California Lightening Complex Fires was dispersed among multiple websites. The real-time map using Esri’s ArcGIS Online (AGOL) synthesizes over 40 data layers and data from local, state and federal agencies. The map answered the public’s vital questions and went viral across social media platforms with 1,000 hits per hour.
  • Scott Carroll - Operations Category Costa Mesa Sanitary District.JPG
    Operations Category: Costa Mesa Sanitary District - Artificial Intelligence Sewer Manhole Detection Model
    CMSD is using artificial intelligence, vehicle cameras and the cloud to detect the condition of sewer manhole covers. This method is safer for employees and saves more than 680 inspection hours and $40,000 annually.
  • Debra Ailer - Technology Innovation Award 2021 IS Team.jpg
    Operations Category: East Bay Regional Park District - Information Systems – COVID-19 Safety/Operating Innovations
    The district launched an Employee Safety and Service portal to capture inquiries; report safety hazards; and disseminate information about exposure and building entry protocols, OSHA requirements, how to set up a tailgate safety meeting and COVID paid leave policies. The transition to virtual public and employee meetings was smooth for the administrative office and rapidly put in place for staff serving the district’s 73 parks.
  • Jeff Ziegenbein - IMG_2789.JPG
    Operations Category: Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority - Operations Innovation
    IEUA is a special district in San Bernardino, Calif., that processes over 200,000 tons of waste products into high-quality compost annually. The compost is used locally to create healthy soils which require far less water. The entire production and ventilation system is monitored and operated remotely. The facility uses renewable energy produced by 10,000 solar panels and more, saving rate payers over one million kilowatt hours annually.
  • Leadership West Timothy Haile 2021.jpg
    Leadership Category: Timothy Haile, PE, Executive Director - Contra Costa Transportation Authority
    Haile led his team and formed 15 agency partnerships that use advanced technologies and integrated modes of transportation in the INNOVATE 680 program. Its six projects include the Automated Driving Systems pilot projects along the I-680 corridor, with $7.5 million in federal funding; the Mobility on Demand app that will provide real-time, multimodal trip planning, with $8 million in federal funding; and the Shared Mobility Hubs project to develop existing park and ride lots to include shared rides, bikeshare, scooters and e-vehicle chargers.
  • Chief Dan Durkee - IMG_2279.JPG
    Leadership Category: Dan Durkee, MS, EFO, CFO, Fire Chief - Platteville-Gilcrest Fire Protection District
    Durkee negotiated response assistance agreements with all nine neighboring agencies, grew the staff from 10 to 41 career employees, and increased response capacity with technological and cultural advancements. The new cultural code uses support and coaching over chastising, and was developed into a tool for employee evaluations, career development plans, goal-setting and coaching strategies.
  • Janet Grenslitt - Leadership West Gloria Salazar, San Joaquin RDT.jpg
    Leaderbship Category: Gloria G. Salazar, Chief Executive Officer - San Joaquin Regional Transit District
    Salazar leveraged all forms of digital media to communicate with both the public and staff during the pandemic, including Zoom virtual meetings, facility display monitors, social media videos, SMS texting and RTD’s newsletter. Salazar’s honest, heartfelt video on social media channels regarding service disruption and driver shortages ended negative comments. RTD’s promotion of safe practices and safety issues raised employee awareness and resulted in minimal cases of COVID-19 among staff.
Special Districts
GovTech-Award-District of the Year RTD-1.jpg
Technology Innovation Award: District of the Year - San Joaquin Regional Transit District
The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) – which provides bus service to the city of Stockton, Calif., and surrounding communities -- is the Special District Program’s 2021 District of the Year. RTD embraces innovation and experimentation as part of a holistic strategy to meet the changing needs of the community it serves. Even during the uncertainty of the past 18 months, RTD has continued to focus on innovation by reimagining its operations for a new hybrid workforce, launching sustainable fuel technologies for its fleet, and undertaking a first-of-its-type Next-Generation Study to better understand current and future transportation needs in its community.
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