Picking a superhero: It’s a difficult job


By Erin Greer

When you get right down to it, I rank the process of picking a leadership winner up there with familial fights and trips to the dentist. Why? They’re all bound to hurt.

The dread begins to build as the application deadline for each American City & County award nears. On what should be the “plus side,” I know we will unearth a few rare gems of civic service hidden in the mountains of applications. Inevitably, there will be exemplary leaders spearheading groundbreaking projects (literally and figuratively) in communities as fascinating as they are unique. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. And that’s what makes it so difficult.

Because how do you weigh the merits of a public park in an asphalt city against job placement programs in an impoverished one? How do you pit a major highway project in a metropolis against a corridor improvement effort in a town the size of Mayberry?

A true leader recognizes the need in his or her community and responds accordingly. A visionary sees potential problems and areas of growth and leads proactively. And each quarter, our publication is blessed and burdened with a list a true leaders and visionaries.

In our cover story, you will read about our 2013 Public Works Leader of the Year, Gabriel Menendez, the public works director in Tallahassee, Fla. While his leadership has proven worthy of the recognition, I also wanted to give a well-deserved tip of the hat to those nominees that made it to the final round. They are, in alphabetical order:

• Mintze Cheng of Union City, Calif.
• Ray Ellis of Ammon, Idaho
• Scott Hansen of Boulder City, Nev.
• Michael Hilyer of Opelika, Ala.
• Don Jacobovitz of Palatka, Fla.
• Rick Longobart of Santa Ana, Calif.
• Bill Miller of Des Moines, Iowa
• Daniel Payne of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
• William Oakes of Coupeville, Wash.

A salute to each and every one of these public works leaders, and to every nominee for our four annual awards. Thank you for doing what you do. And for making our job so difficult.

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What's Viewpoints?

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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