2020 NACo Achievement Award Winners

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NACo is pleased to announce the winners for the 2020 Achievement Awards. NACo recognized 541 entries from counties and state associations in 30 states. All winners are available in our searchable awards database, where winning programs are searchable by year, category and state dating back to 2007.

2020 Achievement Award Best in Category winners

Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation

San Bernardino County, Calif.

Old West Days: Broadening Myths and Legends to Reflect Authentic Histories

Contact: Melissa Russo

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The focus of the San Bernardino County Museum’s Old West Days is for visitors to experience a heretofore traditional era in ways that better reflect the contributions of diverse cultures in the myths and legends. The event features demonstrations, re-enactors, engaging activities, and entertainment for all ages and backgrounds. In two years the event has grown from twelve to over twenty participating nonprofit partners all contributing to a rich visitor experience, and presenting multiple historical perspectives. The event aspires to build a strong sense of community through inclusiveness and accessibility, making history more meaningful, culturally relevant, and fun for attendees.

By participating in the program, museum visitors are inspired to learn more about San Bernardino County’s diverse and extensive history and gain a sense of what life was like in the 1800s here in the Inland Empire. Visitors are able to see how food was made and preserved, understand what tools were used in different industries, and enjoy entertainment and games. Additionally, with the participation of partners in programming, visitors can grasp how truly diverse this region was (and still is). Visitors learn how the various communities within this region laid the foundation for what would eventually become known as the Inland Empire and evoke a sense of pride in our community’s shared heritage.

Children and Youth

Los Angeles County, Calif.

Moving Families from the Hotline to a Helpline

Contact: Carrie Miller

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Each year, the Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) Child Protection Hotline receives over 220,000 calls reporting suspected child abuse or neglect. Not all calls rise to the level of needing an investigation, but thousands of those families can benefit from community prevention supports. Yet, only one out of every ten families offered community services by DCFS in 2017 were connected. Many families declined, and excessive wait times for those who were interested resulted in an additional 339 families dropping out of the process, never getting the help they needed.

Lean Six Sigma principles were applied to streamline the linkage process, re-imagine DCFS and community-partner roles, and create multidisciplinary teams. As a result, 734 families were connected to prevention supports in one year, more than tripling the number from 2017. Enrollment wait times were reduced by 48%, as families received services up to 13 business days faster. The rate of children re-referred to DCFS who had been abused or neglected dropped by 1.22%, and, of those re-referred, 16.54% more children safely remained in their homes, resulting in a cost avoidance. In just its first year, this project has already improved child safety and increased family stability for our residents.

Civic Education and Public Information

Sutter County, Calif.

Public Business From The Floor High School Speech Contest

Contact: Charles Smith

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Five years ago, the Sutter County Board of Supervisors created a novel program to engage high school students in local government affairs. The annual “Public Business From The Floor” high school speech contest encourages high school students to research county issues and advocate a position from the lectern at a real Board of Supervisors meeting. The contest stresses the right of an individual to petition their government and gives students an opportunity to learn how to address locally elected leaders with their point of view while generating widespread interest in what the students have to say.

With the press in attendance and the event streamed live on the internet, each participant gets three minutes at the lectern—the same amount of time allotted to speakers at Board meetings—to argue a position on a topic that falls under the jurisdiction of the County. Participants are encouraged to visit the County’s website to learn what the County does and are judged, among other things, on how relevant the topic is to County business. County Supervisors and members of a local service club which provides cash prizes are the judges. In 2019, 17 students from seven public and private high schools participated.

Community and Economic Development

King County, Wash.

Engaging Diverse Business Communities in Public Procurements

Contact: Lindsay Pryor

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King County successfully implemented a new program that improves competition for public procurements and engages our diverse business community. Since January 2019, we’ve promoted contracting opportunities using a combination of free posts or inexpensive ads on social media. The program’s goal is to increase the number of bids we receive, and target suppliers that are traditionally underutilized such as small businesses or women/minority-owned businesses. Few government agencies currently use social media to advertise contracts. But after a full year, our program shows measurable results: depending on the contract type, the number of bidders increased 7 to 37 percentage points when we advertised using social media. And we’ve connected with new audiences; 30% of our Facebook clicks are from our Spanish ads, whereas before we had no Spanish advertising.

King County’s unique social media program encourages broader participation among diverse suppliers to compete for our contracts. These additional bidders create new economic development opportunities in our community and ensure better value for our taxpayers. Best of all, this strategy can be easily reproduced in other counties for little or no cost.

County Administration and Management

Bexar County, Texas

A Proven Defense Against Vehicle Title Fraud- The Special Investigation Unit

Contact: Hon. Albert Uresti

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The Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector’s (TAC’s) Motor Vehicle Registration Department oversees the processing of over two million Motor Vehicle title transfers and registrations annually in compliance with Texas Department of Motor Vehicle regulations. To ensure vehicle transactions are completed in a timely and professional manner, Bexar County uses a business model that partners private agencies with its TAC’s Office. The partnership has been cost-effective and beneficial for Bexar County and its 2,000,000 plus citizens, because private business partners are able to offer over 60 additional vehicle registration locations with extended business hours at minimal cost to the County.

The Bexar County TAC’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was created to be the ultimate quality control department. Formed in 2016 to combat increasing title fraud in the state, the County TAC’s SIU was tasked with examining vehicle transactions presented by its twenty Full-Service Title Companies, numerous vehicle dealers, and certain individuals. The SIU’s goals were to defend against title fraud, minimize title errors, and to collaborate with external and law enforcement agencies. As part of its original goal, the SIU’s role has expanded to include review and monitoring for the TAC’s 220 employees and their internal motor vehicle and property tax operations.

County Resiliency: Infrastructure, Energy and Sustainability

Montgomery County, Ohio

Bring Your Green Challenge

Contact: Brianna Wooten

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Addressing the difficulty in making sustainability important to the people we serve, especially for small businesses and organizations lacking resources, Montgomery County has developed and launched an innovative Bring Your Green Challenge, a web-based software platform for engaging communities in sustainability competitions leading to measurable impacts in carbon and energy cost savings, and waste diversion. The platform enables entry of utility data and actions, informs participants about their energy use effectiveness, tracks business participation and results, engages participants in fun and engaging competitions, measures and displays organization, community-wide results, and offers awards to individual organizations for action.

The challenge creatively leveraged businesses’ need to green their operations as a means to achieve community-wide impactful energy and resources reduction by allowing enrollment at all scales (city, city organizations, & people within organizations, as well as citizens at large) and thus is designed for national scalability.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety

San Diego County, Calif.

Fresh Start Criminal Record Relief Program

Contact: Rachael Gufler

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Fresh Start is the Office of the Public Defender’s Comprehensive Criminal Record Relief Program designed to educate and advocate for community members in all areas of conviction relief. A criminal record creates barriers to employment, housing, education, volunteering, and other forms of civic engagement. Yet each of these opportunities that would be blocked with a criminal record are critical to reducing recidivism. Reducing recidivism not only improves individual outcomes, it advances families’ well-being, supports the economy and increases public safety.

With recent criminal justice reform, there are more opportunities to mitigate criminal records and reduce these barriers, but many individuals do not know their options nor how to seek relief. Staffed by experienced attorneys, paralegals, support personnel and legal interns, Fresh Start provides community education and individual representation for people seeking criminal conviction relief.

Our attorneys investigate clients’ criminal histories, develop comprehensive Fresh Start case plans, and seek all appropriate conviction relief on the clients’ behalf. The goal of the program is to remove barriers to successful community reintegration, improve individuals’ access to employment, housing, education, and other forms of civic engagement and thus reduce recidivism and improve community safety.

Financial Management

Baltimore County, Md.

Balancing Act

Contact: Breyon Whittington

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Leading into the Fiscal Year 2020 budget submission and facing an $81 million deficit, Baltimore County launched an online tool called Balancing Act. This tool allows County residents to learn more about the state of Baltimore County’s budget and the difficult choices under consideration during the budgeting process.

Through the tool, residents can closely examine the County’s projected situation for the coming fiscal year and simulate reallocating funds, and increasing possible revenue streams, in order to balance spending and revenue.


Montgomery County, Ohio

Spreading Our Wings During Tragedy

Contact: Jodi Long

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In 2019, Montgomery County, Ohio, which includes the City of Dayton, faced what many describe as one of the most challenging years of all time. During this year, the County faced two large crises within 3 months of each other that created the unprecedented need to provide residents with emotional and mental health resources.

The first crisis occurred the evening of Memorial Day, May 27, 2019, when a total of 15 tornadoes touched down in the County, with the largest tornadoes hitting the cities of Trotwood, Brookville, Riverside, and Dayton directly. It was later discovered that the largest of the tornadoes carried winds up to 170 mph and would be rated an EF4. While the tornadoes either severely damaged or destroyed more than 2,200 structures in Montgomery County; it also displaced over 1,100 households. Within days of the devastating tornadoes, Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS), and Public Health of Dayton & Montgomery County established a Family Assistance Center to serve the community.

While Montgomery County and the City of Dayton continued to put in effort to rebuild after the tornadoes, a second crisis occurred. In the early morning of Sunday, August 4, 2019, a lone gunman opened fired in Dayton’s entertainment district, known as the Oregon District. Sadly, the gunman killed 9 people and wounded 17 others. Community and governmental agencies worked together to quickly establish the Recovery & Resiliency Center (RRC) to again serve the community.

Human Services

Orange County, Calif.

Helping Hands

Contact: Marisa Unvert

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Airport travel, while an exciting and fun experience for some, can be especially stressful for an individual with an autism spectrum disorder or other hidden disability. John Wayne Airport (JWA) strives to provide a superior guest experience for all travelers and wanted to ensure it was meeting the needs of families traveling with individuals with hidden disabilities. To ease some of the stress associated with airport travel, the Airport created “Helping Hands.”

The Helping Hands program facilitates communication with TSA to arrange for TSA Cares assistance; coordinates with airlines to arrange special assistance; provides personalized help guiding travelers through the arrival, check-in, security, and boarding processes; and conducts pre-travel tours to help prepare for the trip. Participants are provided with yellow bracelets to inform Airport employees that additional time and extra care may be required. Customer Relations staff, Airport tenants and airlines receive specialized training, and ongoing marketing efforts continue with participation at community events, presentations, and publicity.

The program continues to expand as new partnerships arise, such as collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association and veterans organizations. Since the program’s inception, 96 requests for personalized assistance or tours have been fulfilled, and 181 individuals attended eight trainings. Because of the community, airline and staff support, Helping Hands continues to grow.

Information Technology

San Diego County, Calif.

Medical Examiner’s Open Data Portal

Contact: Rachael Gufler

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Every day, Medical Examiners and Coroners investigate deaths that are sudden, unexpected, and sometimes unclear. The San Diego County Medical Examiner strongly believes that when death has a story to tell, one should listen. The department’s primary mission is to work with the medical and law enforcement community to understand each person’s story of death, to seek justice, and to bring closure to families. Each story contributes to an important bigger picture that is the health and well-being of our community.

Understanding the value in these stories and the data collected, the San Diego Medical Examiner released more than 22 years of death record information onto San Diego County’s searchable public internet portal in March 2019. The idea was to make the data available for the public, media, and any other agencies that work in academia, public health or public policy, who could take the data, analyze it, and provide valuable insights back to the department and even advance broader changes to improve public health and safety. Since its release, this data set has been viewed over 16,000 times and downloaded nearly 600 times, making it the most popular data search on the County’s web portal.


Catawba County, N.C.

Library to Go

Contact: Siobhan Loendorf

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The Catawba County Library views community-based library services as essential and at the core of what keeps libraries strong and relevant. We understand that to truly turn outward and serve everyone we must get outside of our library building to meet people where they are.

Beginning in 2018, in alignment with the county’s strategic initiatives, the Catawba County Library established our version of a pop-up library we call the Library to Go. This new service has expanded the library’s capacity to build relationships, target areas of need, and partner in the community to bring services, materials, programs, technology resources, and internet access beyond the library walls and to the people that need them the most, especially to non-traditional locations and underserved audiences.

During the school year, the Library to Go provides library services to schools without media centers, nursing homes, childcare centers, afterschool programs and more. In the summer, the Library to Go works out in the community at summer learning programs in disadvantaged neighborhoods, community festivals, and farmer's markets meeting people where they are with the resources they need.

Parks and Recreation

Bernalillo County, N.M.

Supportive Aftercare Program: Community Reintegration, a Collaboration with Parks & Rec

Contact: Breanna Anderson

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This program centers around teaching individuals to use transitional living communities as a safe space to continue working on their recovery and to learn to utilize the strengths of their surrounding community. Addiction often forces individuals into isolation, so learning to be part of a dynamic community is often something individuals trying to maintain recovery struggle with. The program focuses on how the Supportive Aftercare Program (SAC), in the heart of Albuquerque’s International District, is teaching individuals how to access various community resources and use them as an asset to their overall well-being, while living as part of a unique sober community.

Due to the overall success of the SAC program and the desire to show individuals in the community that their community does in fact care about them and want them to be a part of the community, Bernalillo County decided to combine forces between two departments for the greater good of the community. This application highlights this successful and creative collaboration between Bernalillo County’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Department of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS).

Personnel Management, Employment and Training

Alachua County, Fla.

A New, Collaborative Strategy to Build Awareness of Mental Health Issues and Provide a Practical Response

Contact: Stuart Wegener

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There is an essential need for county employees to have the tools necessary to understand mental health issues presented by those citizens who may be affected, and also to be empowered to respond to such persons appropriately. The training curriculum of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an evidence-based strategy to assist lay people, including our employees on the front line, to identify such issues among citizens when presented and then respond with a 5-step action plan.

With the full support of the County’s leadership, we organized and implemented a three-year initiative to fully train our employees and those of multiple allied organizations in MHFA. Through participation in over 100 sessions, 2,126 staff were trained in the MHFA curriculum. County staff combined planning and training services with local charitable organizations to leverage scarce resources, enabling a more cost-effective program. Innovative, positive strategies are needed to address the increasing level of mental health issues prevalent in our communities. This County’s initiative demonstrates the significant value of extending awareness of mental health issues and practical strategies to our staff engaged in delivering services daily to those who may be in need.


Buncombe County, N.C.

Buncombe County Community Oriented Development

Contact: Vivian Sevilla

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Buncombe County’s Community Oriented Development (COD) program was developed to incentivize density and design flexibility (based on a points-based system menu), in exchange for affordable or workforce housing units, sustainability features, and community amenities. The program is allowed by-right in the Zoning Ordinance and seeks to provide opportunities for the creation of new affordable housing near major transportation corridors, where public water and sewer infrastructure is available. The program includes requirements for income eligibility and set rental rates/housing price affordability for a minimum period of 15 years.

Since the creation of the program, 130 new affordable and workforce housing units have been approved through the program and more projects are currently in the planning stages.

Risk and Emergency Management

Travis County, Texas

Preparing for a Wildfire with Neighborhood Fire Drills

Contact: Hon Brigid Shea

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Climate change is causing deadlier and more extreme weather across the planet. In particular, more intense rains, followed by deeper, longer droughts are increasing the threat of uncontrollable wildfires, such as the recent fires in Australia. The Austin-Travis County area was recently ranked fifth nationwide for risk of devastating wildfires by Core Logic.

A plague of wildfires broke out around Travis County driven by persistent drought and high winds. They overloaded fire and emergency responders who were pulled in many directions. Residents didn't know what to do. In response to this threat, Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea's office, along with numerous County departments, created a neighborhood-based fire drill pilot project to see if such a fire drill would be useful. If it worked, they planned to replicate the model and share it widely.

They worked for over a year with an isolated, fire threatened community to create a model program. In March 2019 they ran the first known neighborhood-based fire drill in Texas. It worked.


Adams County, Colo.

Gravel Roads Resurfacing Program: Innovation in Local Government

Contact: Kylin Mueller

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Gravel maintenance and repair is the process of treating roads at the optimum time to maximize their useful life, thus enhancing gravel longevity at the lowest cost. If neglected for extended periods of time, roads will rapidly deteriorate. The Adams County Public Works Department manages the Gravel Roads Resurfacing Program for residents in Eastern Adams County. The intent of this program is to fund safe and efficient gravel roads that have been identified as unstable and hazardous.

Prior to 2017, these essential arteries were not always well cared for, suffering from nearly two decades of disrepair. New management in 2017 began a period of change in Adams County. A shift from previous operations and new management encouraged innovation by employees at every level. Embracing the unknown, employees conducted a series of trials to develop a unique mixture that transformed gravel roads to more closely resemble their paved counterpart.

After several failed attempts, our team discovered something extraordinary… a new standard for gravel roads everywhere. This new approach to gravel roads creates a surface that provides a better driving experience, greater durability, and less maintenance. This endeavor has brought local, national, and international visitors to Adams County in pursuit of the same success.


Loudoun County, Va.

Busy Buddies

Contact: Nina Stively

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Loudoun County Animal Services (LCAS) receives over 2,400 animals a year, and as widespread spay/neuter efforts and access have taken hold in the community, the population of animals in need of sheltering has changed. Consistent with nationwide trends, more than 60% of homeless pets in Loudoun County arrive at the shelter in need of additional medical and/or behavioral intervention prior to adoption. Consequently, the staff combined a set of volunteer-driven in-kennel enrichment programs to reduce stress in dogs which had historically led to behavioral decline, increased rates of contagious disease and euthanasia.

LCAS developed “Busy Buddies,” which carries minimal cost and is almost entirely volunteer-operated, to significant success. Euthanasia over the past four years has dropped 21%, disease outbreaks have dropped by 60%, and length of stay has dropped by 9 days. Volunteers report high levels of satisfaction with the youth-friendly craft programs, and spots for volunteer opportunities now routinely have a wait-list.

Initiating programs to preserve the mental well-being of the animals in shelter custody has had lasting impacts on the staff, the volunteers, and the dogs, and the program has since been expanded to provide enrichment for animals of all species needing temporary refuge at Loudoun County Animal Services.


Achievement Awards Database

Explore the 541 2020 NACo Achievement Award winners, as well as all previous winning programs, searchable by year, category and state dating back to 2007.

Awards Database

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