Navigator Award Finalists: The Electeds

Ceiling in the main lobby of the Nebraska State Capitol


Connecting state and local government leaders

These are the 10 elected leaders who caught our eye for doing things differently, and making a big impact for their communities.

Now in our third year, Route Fifty’s Navigator Awards continues to grow. The number of nominations we received grew by more than a quarter, featuring even more great ideas being dreamed up and implemented by inventive leaders at all levels of government.

This week, Route Fifty rolls out the 50 finalists, ten in each of our five categories: The Electeds, The Leaders, The Tech Innovators, The Next Generation and The Allies.

Our first release of finalists this week are “The Electeds,” honoring the leaders in a state or local government who are driving change in the communities they have been chosen to serve.

In alphabetical order, ‘The Electeds’ finalists are:

Bob Berkowitz, County Supervisor, Del Norte County, California

In an era of virtual town halls and constituent interaction via social media, Del Norte County has gone old-school, with a "Daily Town Hall" meeting where citizens can meet with a supervisor (or two) every morning, except Sunday, at 6am for one hour—with no set agenda. In an age when many local government bodies put time limits on citizen comments at meetings, this dedicated continuous dialogue with citizens stands out. Berkowitz deserves credit for helping citizens connect and share ideas on a deeper level with their elected officials.

Carol L. Blood, Nebraska State Senator, District 3

Blood was approached with a problem: a lack of supportive technology for veterans who are deaf or blind to get in touch with the federal Veterans Affairs offices in the region. Serving for as an advocate for Nebraska veterans, Blood was able to work with the federal government to have audiology machines installed across the hospital and clinics of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System.

Rafael Castellanos, Chairman, Port of San Diego

Castellanos has been a champion of the Port of San Diego’s new “Blue Economy” incubator. The program provides assistance to those developing and scaling aquaculture and water-dependent business ventures in the region, ranging from growing commercial seaweed and oysters to reducing the levels of toxic copper released into the bay.

Bob Culver, County Executive, Wicomico County, Maryland

Deaths from opioid abuse across the nation have risen dramatically in the last few years, but efforts in Wicomico County have helped reversed the trend. Culver was part of putting a program into action that has helped change the lives of those suffering from addiction in the county. The Community Outreach Addictions Team program offers citizens a smooth transition into treatment services with support from “recovery coaches.” The coaches, who have a minimum of two years in recovery themselves, are tasked with helping those still in the throes of addiction to make a decision to save their lives by entering treatment. The effort has led to a decline in overdoses and related deaths in the community.

Nathan Deal, Governor, State of Georgia

Two years ago, the state of Georgia had no plans to build a cybersecurity center for the state. But when U.S. Army Cyber Command shifted its operations to Fort Gordon, Deal seized the opportunity. In just 18 months the governor and his team completed a $100 million, 150,000 square foot Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center. It is now a thriving part of Augusta University’s campus and a centerpiece of the revitalization of downtown Augusta. It also has created a collaborative central space for federal and state cybersecurity efforts, a cyber incubator, and university classes to support the developing the cyber workforce.

Amanda Edwards, Council member At-Large, City of Houston

The leaders in the city of Houston have a lot to be proud of regarding their efforts to rebuild communities and support citizens following Hurricane Harvey. Route Fifty chose Edwards as a finalist for her dedication to the city’s long-term recovery, including integrating recommendations from the Mayor’s Technology & Innovation Task Force she led into the city’s long-term recovery plans.

Annissa Essaibi-George, City Councilor At-Large, Boston

Over the past two years, Essaibi-George and service providers have developed a pilot program focused on reducing homelessness and improving education outcomes for families in Boston. Working across housing, education and health sectors, the pilot partnership housed 11 families in the first six months of the year, with a goal to house all 240 homeless students across 180 households by the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Alaska State Representative, District 35

Kreiss-Tompkins is a force for rural economic development in Alaska, bringing innovative ideas into reality not only in his district, but the state as a whole. His efforts have helped the state develop its next generation workforce in areas ranging from fisheries to the public sector, while removing “red tape” and barriers to capital necessary to start new businesses in Alaska.

Chris MacArthur, City Councilmember, Riverside, California

MacArthur is responsible for leading the GrowRIVERSIDE Initiative, which has harnessed the region’s agricultural production into broader community and economic development opportunities. The effort has helped spur significant investments in the regional food economy, and the model is now being replicated by other cities.

Craig Thurmond, Mayor, City of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Revitalization efforts takes many forms, but the Rose District stands out as a success story. The efforts by Thurmond and his team are a decade in the making. Making use of county support and innovative funding tools, the city built public facilities, like its performing arts center, and attracted private investors. In total, the development has created over 1,000 new jobs and millions in tax revenue. Perhaps as importantly, it has brought new vibrancy to Broken Arrow’s city center.