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2021 Special Districts Year-in-Review and Recognition Summit

Showcasing ideas, best practices and leadership as districts prepare their infrastructure and operations for the future.

The 2021 Special Districts Year-in-Review and Recognition Summit brought together an all-star group of special district leaders and industry experts for an interactive conversation on modernizing internal operations, improving constituent services and navigating uncertain times. The virtual event broke down important trends, shared great ideas and offered practical suggestions – all focused on making districts more efficient and effective.

The event honored 45 special districts who received 2021 Technology Innovation Awards, including our first-ever District of the Year recipient: The San Joaquin (California) Regional Transit District. Here are some highlights from our award winners:

-- The San Joaquin Regional Transit District which provides bus service to the city of Stockton, Calif., and surrounding communities – tapped into funds from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act to backfill a 75 percent drop in farebox revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic while it redesigns transit services for the future. Among other things, the district launched a series of pilot projects that ultimately will help it design new transit routes and service offerings to fit a post-pandemic world. It also began a first-of-its-type Next-Generation Transit Study to better understand current and future transportation needs in its community.

-- The New York Power Authority (NYPA), the largest state public power utility in the United States, is expanding its use of data analytics to gain new operational insights. NYPA recently launched data analytics platform that provides clean and normalized enterprise data gathered from a variety of sources across the organization. The platform gives data scientists, engineers and other users a common source of data for creating predictive models, visualizations, reports, dashboards and other valuable tools. NYPA is now using the platform to support predictive analytics projects to improve power delivery to customers. For instance, NYPA is developing models that predict the most efficient and reliable way to deliver power generated upstate to users in New York City. It’s also analyzing heat images from infrared cameras to spot potential transformer explosions before they happen.

-- Metroparks Toledo -- which manages 12 parks covering 12,000 acres in the Toledo, Ohio, area, developed creative ways to connect with residents when traditional parks programs were shut down due to the pandemic. Although visits to parks grew dramatically during the pandemic lockdown, traditional in-person programs and interactions between park staff and patrons were suspended. So, the district engaged residents in a variety of new ways from producing a series of “Nature Nuggets” videos – covering everything from fishing for Walleye in the Maumee River to identifying types of trees – to organizing online scavenger hunts.

-- The Lower Colorado River Authority, a Texas public utility that generates electric power from a series of dams on the Colorado River, took a holistic approach to transitioning staff to remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization set up sites at several of its larger locations where employees could pick up a complete package of equipment – laptops, monitors, keyboard, mice – to support the new work-from-home model. On the back end, LCRA expanded its use of cloud-based email and video collaboration platforms, beefed up network capacity and implemented multi-factor authentication. The authority also adopted a variety approaches -- including mobile hotspots and Wi-Fi amplifiers -- to improve internet connectivity for employees who live in rural areas of the state.


Peggy Brady, Director of Information Technology, Lower Colorado River Authority
Ron Carroll, VP Product Development, Data Management & Enterprise Architecture, New York Power Authority
Ben Ettlinger, Data Analytics Architect, New York Power Authority
Shannon Hughes, Director of Education and Programs, Metroparks Toledo
Patrick Robinson, Associate Director, Cybersecurity, Public Sector, AT&T
Devon Winthrop, Principal Architect, AT&T
Dustin Haisler, Chief Innovation Officer, Government Technology
Steve Towns, Deputy Chief Content Officer, Content Studio, e.Republic