Dr. Emilia Istrate

Managing Director, NACo Counties Futures Lab

As NACo Counties Future Lab managing director, Emilia Istrate leads policy analysis, analytics and knowledge sharing efforts, as well as thought leadership to support and advance the interests of county governments. She is part of NACo’s executive leadership team.

In February 2013, she started as the Director of Research and Outreach, overseeing the research division. Dr. Istrate led a change management strategy to transform the existing two-person research division into a full-fledged department focused on key issues affecting counties. She implemented a different brand of research to meet the needs of NACo’s membership and to enhance NACo’s reputation for world-class expertise and thought leadership. In February 2017, she oversaw the reorganization of the research department under the Counties Futures Lab brand, which focuses on the promises of the county government of the future.

Dr. Istrate is an authority on building evidence-based policy narratives, state and local analytics and economic development and infrastructure research. At NACo, she spearheaded big data policy research and easy to use data visualizations such as tailored county profiles, County Explorer, Counties Matter and the County Economies series. County Explorer has more than 1 million visits annually, received an Association of Public Data Users (APDU) 2016 Data Viz Award and is part of the White House open data initiative, The Opportunity Project.

Dr. Istrate leads an extensive outreach campaign with NACo members, state associations of counties, media, federal agencies and other stakeholders to enhance NACo’s visibility as a thought leader. She is regularly invited to speak at policy, industry and membership associations’ conferences. She also manages NACo’s relationships with two affiliates — the National Association of County Administrators (NACA) and the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO).

As an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution, Dr. Istrate led multi-disciplinary research teams on long-term studies resulting in extensive media coverage, policy initiatives in states and metropolitan areas or federal policy proposals. She also organized thought leadership events and participated in policy sessions on exports, infrastructure finance and economic development. Before that, Dr. Istrate worked for the George Mason University leading teams evaluating nonperforming loans in developing countries and international entrepreneurship policies and practices. Earlier in her career, she co-authored a book for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on evaluating the performance of multilateral institutions in energy efficiency projects.

Dr. Istrate co-authored dozens of policy reports, studies, volumes and book chapters, and her research has been cited in hundreds of print, TV and radio news sources, including Associated Press, Bloomberg, CBS, CNBC, The Economist, Fox Business News, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Times and others. She is a member of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) Data Users Steering Committee.

Dr. Istrate holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Mason University and graduate degrees in International Studies and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University and Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Austria.

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