2018 Chris Traeger Award – #21 to #30

Posted on December 5, 2018


The Chris Traeger List recognizes the top 100 influencers in local government. Chris Traeger was the city manager for the fictional City of Pawnee, Indiana on the show Park and Recreation. He was known for extreme energy and commitment to improving local government.

The Traeger List is not based on title or longevity. It’s based on an individual’s influence in their community and professional associations.

Nominations were submitted from local government professionals from across the country. ELGL members selected the top ten of the Traeger List. The ELGL Evaluation Team reviewed and selected the remainder of the list.

All Traeger List influencers will be honored at #ELGL19 on May 16 and 17 in Durham, NC. The Top Ten Traegers will be invited to speak during the #ELGL19 conference.

ELGL members can continue the conversation about the Traeger Award in the ELGL Facebook group. Need the perfect holiday gift? Try an ELGL membership.

2018 Chris Traeger Award – In the Headlines

David LaFrance21. David LaFrance, CEO, American Water Works Association

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: David was on my favorite panel at #ELGL18 where his passion for public infrastructure was evident. Listening to him talk only reinforced the importance of public work that local government is responsible for and he inspired me to learn more and become more engaged in my job.

David is always willing to learn more and then share with his members innovative projects and he’s great at communicating, which makes his work even more compelling and interesting. He’s also very friendly and accessible and I know I have a great contact in the water world thanks to that trait.

Learn More: Podcast: Water Works with David LaFrance, CEO of AWWA

22. Ben Walsh, Mayor, Syracuse NY

Connect: LinkedInTwitter

ben walshWord on the Street: Mayor Walsh has served as mayor for less than a year and has already made an impact.

Embracing data driven decision making, he changed the way parking enforcement happens in winter, has pushed for streamlining services so customers can be better served.

He pushed for the launch of a performance office and oversaw the purchase of the street lights in the city. His mission and vision for the city will allow the city to revitalize as his term continues.

Learn More: I Have To Ask You: Civic Hackathons

23. Chris Morrill, Executive Director, GFOA 

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: GFOA is a fantastic organization that continues to impress under Chris’ leadership.

Chris walks the walk and talks the talk on engaging the next generation to local government leadership. He was quick to jump on board to support #ELGLInspire, speaking eloquently at the event in North Carolina and directing GFOA to support the six subsequent events.

A lot of people talk about the future of local government leadership but Chris is actually doing something to prepare young people for leadership.

Learn More: Chris Morrill on GovLove

24. Brendan Babb, Chief Innovation Officer, Anchorage, Alaska

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: Innovation is hard, messy work. Determining the true problems facing cities and finding solutions that make a difference require patience and unwavering perseverance. Brendan knows what it takes to make progress and create better cities for all.

Brendan is the first person on social media – from way up in Alaska – to throw sunshine and support to his local government colleagues and communities. He seems to know when a tweet will provide the added support and recognition in this challenging business of local government innovation.

Learn More: Innovation Doesn’t Have to be Fancy with Sam Edelstein & Brendan Babb

Brent Stockwell25. Brent Stockwell, Assistant City Manager, City of Scottsdale, Arizona

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: Brent epitomizes leadership because he is constantly lifting up his peers and colleagues with encouragement, resources, and kindness.

Brent lives the Traeger ethos of enthusiasm and energy. He is never too busy to take on a new challenge, make a new friend, or support a colleague (even those of us who live thousands of miles away!) in local government service.

I’ve never met someone who loves public service (and the color blue) as much as Brent.

Learn More: Behavioral Insights & Benchmarking with Brent Stockwell, Scottsdale, AZ

26. Wade Walcutt, Parks Director, City of Cincinnati, Ohio

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: Cincinnati’s parks are incredible, thanks to Wade Walcutt.

Thanks to Wade, Cincinnati Parks were named one of the top ten park systems in the country. Wade is a recognized leader in public/private partnerships which has lead to improving lives, making memories and creating experiences for all of Cincinnati.

Wade and his team have developed a very clear vision of building better lives and a better community through enhancing quality of life, improving health and wellness, conserving natural resources and creating sustainable economic impacts.

Learn More: Cincinnati.com: Meet Wade Walcutt

27. Nick Smith, Digital Content Specialist, City of Gaithersburg, Maryland

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Nick SmithWord on the Street: Nick is a champion for accessibility and transparency in government, which both add up to increased accountability and–hopefully–participation by residents.

Nick Smith is the Nick Smith of Local Government. That one’s easy.

Nick is an innovative leader – he’s moving mountains to serve residents. Using innovative approaches to governance. Serving his communities and the profession first.

Nick isn’t just a witty responder to ELGL #QOTD’s – he bring substance and knowledge to any discussion because he’s committed to immersing himself in public service excellence. But it’s also awesome that he’s so dang funny.

Learn More: Doing Just One Thing Makes You Better At Everything

28. Adria Finch, Chief Innovation Officer, City of Syracuse, New York

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: Adria just makes things happen. Even when things seem insurmountable, she takes them on without concern for the risks or potential for failure. She has stewarded the Bloomberg grant we received your email start our office well and has gotten programs like Start Up in Residence up and running.

She started a monthly lunch series where attendees take on challenges internal to the city, like the way we do travel forms, and work to change them. The city is building a culture of innovation and much is due to her efforts.

Adria makes so many things happen for the City of Syracuse. When she decides that something needs to change, that thing normally changes.

She is able to get a group of people together, build support, and then change things for the better. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” may as well be a curse in her book,and she fights against that attitude daily.

Learn More: Snow-plowing robots? City Hall turns to tech start-ups to fix 5 problems

29. Sarah Marie Martin, Director,  MySidewalk 

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: 

Sarah and SarahI can think of no other person who has made more of an impact on a city than Sarah has on the City of Kansas City, Missouri. She has, almost single handedly, pushed social and health equity to the forefront of the City’s policy conversations. In her short, three year tenure with the City, she has rose through the ranks of the Health Department from Assistant to the Director to Deputy Director.

Sarah is embracing new ideas, upgrading how we present data to the community, strategically adding bold goals to our city-wide business plan to keep city officials accountable, and encouraging cross-departmental collaboration to take on the tough issues we face here in Kansas City.

The direction that Kansas City is going would look completely different without the influence of Dr. Sarah Martin and to me, that truly is a sign of her being deserving of this recognition. Maybe I am biased but I wholeheartedly believe that Dr. Sarah Martin should not only be featured within the Traeger top 100, I think she deserves to be #1.

Dr. Martin has been a great leader to work with. She is nationally respected in her field and works to build relationships and implement positive change in her city. She also provides guidance and thoughtful suggestions to help GovTech companies better serve her department and colleagues across the country. Plus, her Twitter game is strong.

Dr. Martin brings a totally fresh perspective to her work at the Health Department. She has single-handedly integrated their efforts with the overall city business plan and is a force for change in Kansas City and in the public health field. She is a rock star in public health research and advocacy for underrepresented populations.

Sarah Martin is truly a champion of the community. Whether it be drawing attention and helping resolve community health issues by building data driven roadmaps, that help highlight the smaller, unseen variables that lead to larger health issues within the community. Or her stalwartness in the fight to resolve the discrepancy of access to health care created by the wealth gap. Sarah’s research and drive have been truly beneficial to the most in need throughout the community. In addition to the above, Sarah also takes the time to mentor and help those around her; Sarah has, without a doubt, contributed and improved the distribution of knowledge by ensuring her peers are as knowledgeable as she is, which is paramount in the fight to resolve community health issues.

Learn More: Pop Quiz with Sarah Martin-Anderson, City of Kansas City, MO

30. Kevin Hardman, Mayor, City of Sharonville, Ohio

Connect: LinkedIn & Twitter

Word on the Street: I would first like to thank ELGL for recognizing individuals who are having a positive impact within and outside their organization. I believe our Mayor, Kevin Hardman, is the ideal candidate.


Last year, Mayor Hardman was recognized by the Cincinnati Business Courier as their Public Sector CEO of the Year. He followed that up by being named as the 2017 Municipal Leader of the Year by American City & County Magazine, a national publication.

As the leader of our organization, Mayor Hardman has been instrumental in the City being named by Ohio Business News this year as one of Ohio’s top 50 workplaces. We are the only City that has been recognized by this publication with this award.

Since Kevin has been our Mayor (January 2013), the City’s income tax revenue has increased over 25%. For a City that does not collect any property taxes, this is critical to our success. In 2015 and 2016 alone, the City was able to attract nearly 1,400 jobs while retaining over 1,500. In 2015, Sharonville was named as the 6th best community in Ohio to start a new business. Our employees know that working with businesses through the recruitment or retention effort is vital.

In addition to our income tax growth, the City’s Northern Lights District has also witnessed tremendous growth, after years of discussion and stagnation. Improvements to Chester Road, the main thoroughfare within that District, will soon be complete ($10 million + investment). The City’s Convention Center recently expanded and will soon likely expand once again. We were also able to partner with a hotel developer for a hotel (Hyatt Place) to be attached to our Center. This has been a tremendous amenity for the over 200,000 visitors the Convention Center sees on an annual basis. Without Mayor Hardman’s direct involvement, the above would not have transpired.

Our residents are also seeing other key infrastructure improvements. For example, in 2016 and 2017, the amount of residential road resurfacing more than doubled what the average amount had been over the previous 5 years (just under $600,000/year to over $1.25 million/year). In 2018, that amount nearly quadrupled to $2.3 million or so!

Mayor Hardman also saved the City over $250,000 per year by proposing at the end of 2014 that we utilize Hamilton County Public Health and eliminate our City Health Department. That action was challenged by a small minority of residents by referendum, but the public voted 76% to 24% to continue with Mayor Hardman’s plan. With those savings, we added personnel to our police department.

What has Kevin done outside of our Community? Mayor Hardman has served as the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Administrator since August 2015. His volunteer efforts have been impressive as well (e.g., Kiwanis member and MC for several events; Cub Scout involvement, including leader for pack 485 and Webelos Den Leader for 4 years; the praise team leader and volunteer for Interfaith Hospitality for the Sharonville United Methodist Church; and President of the Hamilton County Municipal League).

Regarding the volunteer efforts, I am most impressed by Kevin’s family’s fund-raising efforts for the Arthritis Foundation of Ohio. His daughter, Alyssa, was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis a few years ago and, in an effort to make her life — and others in a similar situation — better, Mayor Hardman’s family continuously raises funds for the organization. Alyssa’s Angels has been one of the top fund-raising teams each year the Hardman family has been involved with the “Jingle Bell Run,” a 5k event typically held in December each year. In fact, their efforts on a local level have been so appreciated that Alyssa Hardman was recently nominated to be the Jingle Bell Run’s national honoree.

In my 20+ year City Management career, I have never worked with or for a more dedicated elected official. Since Kevin became Sharonville’s Mayor (January 2013), the City has thrived — with his leadership, and the support of City Council, the City has attracted/retained thousands of jobs, increased the income tax base by over 25%, completed stagnated road projects, and improved employee wellness (e.g., 3 years in a row of declining health insurance rates), just to name a few examples. In addition, the City currently has no General Fund debt, which is allowing us to construct a much-needed new Police Station, along with planning for other capital improvements (e.g., park renovations). Further, the City has also had a very aggressive residential road repaving program the last 3 years — doubling the typical program in 2016 and 2017 and tripling the average amount in 2018. Quite simply, residents are reaping the benefits of Mayor Hardman’s leadership as are his employees. Due to his efforts, Kevin was recently named as American City & County’s Municipal Leader of the Year as well as Public Sector CEO of the Year by the Cincinnati Business Courier. Hopefully, you deem him worthy of a top-10 selection for this award.

Learn More: Sharonville Mayor Kevin Hardman Named 2017 Municipal Leader of the Year

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