The PM Awards Issue: Celebrating the Best of the Best

A closer look at ICMA's awards program and those behind the scenes that selected this year's recipients [PM Magazine, October 2019]

Oct 1, 2019 | ARTICLE

PM Magazine is excited to bring you this very special Awards Issue, which showcases this year’s recipients of Local Government Excellence, Distinguished Service, and Local Government Service awards. Also featured are new ICMA Honorary Members and Certificates in Performance Management recipients.

The ICMA awards program has an illustrious history, and PM is proud to honor that with our now-annual Awards Issue. Initiated in 1968 “to recognize managers for significant innovations in municipal government management,” ICMA’s Management Innovation Awards were given to 10 recipients and recognized in the March 1969 issue of PM .

Today, ICMA’s Local Government Excellence Awards include five professional awards granted to individual members and five programmatic awards conferred on local governments in three population categories for their innovative programs or processes. This year ICMA recognizes five individuals and 13 local governments, from among more than 100 nominations, for their contributions to elevating the practice of local government leadership and management.

The ICMA Awards Evaluation Panel, who reviewed the nominations, is an esteemed group from across the United States and Canada. They eagerly took on the important work of scoring and selecting award recipients and shared their experiences with PM.

When asked about their thoughts on this year’s nominations, the panelists spoke highly of the quality of the submissions. Nathaniel Pagan, city manager, city of Owensboro, Kentucky, said, “The ingenuity and creativity exhibited in the submissions was impressive.” Victoria Brazitis, incoming chair of the Awards Evaluation Panel, from Bothell, Washington, saw a consistent theme in the crop of nominations. “Community engagement and finding creative ways to fund priorities are important trends. I’m inspired by all the ways communities are creative in place-making, too.”

“I think the one word that applies across the board with this year’s nominees is ‘impressive,’” said Vince DiMaggio, assistant city manager, city of El Cajon, California. “In every category, the panel was confronted with excellent and highly competitive submittals. It made our job very difficult—and that’s a good thing.”

What initially prompted the panelists to volunteer on this particular panel? They were seeking a way to get involved with ICMA and the opportunity to recognize the many profound achievements of their peers. Keshwer Patel, commissioner, corporate services, chief financial officer and treasurer, city of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, said, “I am new to ICMA and hence this was an opportunity to get involved in the work that ICMA does and to develop contacts with peers in other cities.”

Jonathan Lynn, county administrator, Surry County, Virginia, recalled advice given to him by his first city manager. “He said, ‘You should always try to give back to the profession—it’s a network of volunteering that can be more beneficial than any day-to-day decision-making process.’ I have always remembered this and volunteered with great enthusiasm to be able to assist what is now my professional organization in any way possible.”

Mary Furtado, ICMA-CM, assistant county manager, Catawba County, North Carolina, said, “I believe in good government, and I’m proud of the important work done by local governments across the country each and every day. I wanted to be a part of recognizing and praising those efforts. Bestowing excellence and achievement awards is a small but meaningful way that we can recognize and celebrate the impact of local governments on the communities we serve.”

Shanna Sims-Bradish, assistant city manager, City of Richardson, Texas, felt similarly. “It’s very powerful to see the innovative and impactful services and projects that local governments have implemented to better serve their communities. The ICMA awards program reinforces the importance of local government in meeting the evolving challenges in their communities.”

The panelists were eager to comment on how much they enjoy their time evaluating the award nominations. Ray Keller, ICMA-CM, village manager, village of Lake Zurich, Illinois, finds his work with the panel very rewarding. “Being on the panel exposes me to the innovative approaches taken by all of the nominating communities, not just the selected award winners. Many of the nominees have ideas, strategies, and lessons that are worthy of recognition and emulation, but may not get the top billing in very competitive award categories. Reading about all the nominees’ efforts fuels my exploration of ‘what’s next’ in my own community.”

Nathan Johnson, Awards Panel chair and city manager, city of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, said, “The most rewarding part about serving on the panel is the opportunity to recognize your peers and the incredible work that they are doing in their communities. It’s also very rewarding working with a tireless group of professionals who spend a lot of time reviewing the applications to present the awardees to the ICMA membership every year.”

Mary Furtado, ICMA-CM, assistant county manager, Catawba County, North Carolina, spoke passionately about the work done by the nominees. “The issues [the nominees are] addressing through these innovative programs are real. They span multiple years from a time-horizon standpoint, and they don’t adhere neatly to our jurisdictional boundaries. And ICMA member communities are making an impact.”

We thank the panel for their important—albeit difficult—work in identifying the best of the best of this year’s nominations. And we hope you enjoy this special Awards Issue of PM Magazine. Please join us in celebrating the individuals and jurisdictions that have achieved the highest levels of excellence.



Jack Benzaquen

Victoria Brazitis, Vice Chair

Vince DiMaggio

Mary S. Furtado, ICMA-CM

Nathan D. Johnson, Chair

Ray B. Keller

Jonathan Lynn

Gloria Molleda

Nathaniel W. Pagan, ICMA-CM

Keshwer Patel

Andrew K. Pederson, ICMA-CM

Rob D. Richardson III

Jane K. Shang

Kirsten C. Silveira

Shanna N. Sims-Bradish

Corrin B. Spiegel

Matthew von der Hayden



Joyce Lee

ICMA Senior Program Manager, Awards

Erika Cooper

ICMA Assistant Program Manager


KERRY HANSEN is digital managing editor, Public Management Magazine, ICMA, Washington, D.C. (