For Immediate Release: September 6, 2018
Contact: Robert Bullington, Director of Communications
Richmond – The Virginia Municipal League (VML) is pleased to announce the winners of its annual awards for excellence in local government. The statewide competition recognizes innovative problem-solving, excellence in management, citizen participation, and improved services to citizens. VML received nearly 70 entries, from which a panel of judges selected one winner in each of five categories. The panel also selected one of the winners to receive the President’s Award.
This year’s winners are:
Category: ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY and PRESIDENT’S AWARD
Winner: City of Falls Church
On August 2017, the City of Falls Church launched Virginia’s first curbside collection program targeting the “last frontier” in recycling: food and organic waste. Data shows that 25-30% of the items in an average Falls Church resident’s trash is food and organic waste and the EPA estimates that this type of waste comprises 22% of all waste in landfills nationwide. Thanks to Falls Church’s initiative – which expanded access to all city households and made food waste composting as convenient as regular trash – participation rose to nearly 20% of all households (and continues to increase). This example shows how local governments can drive community and environmental improvement with the right design and leadership.
Category: LIFELONG LEARNING
Winner: Town of Leesburg
Every city has a story to tell, but the town of Leesburg has taken its storytelling to the next level by creating a walking tour app for residents and visitors who want to immerse themselves in the town’s history. Prior to the app, demand was high but regular tours were sparse; tourists were often unable to participate or had to crowd together on downtown’s narrow sidewalks. Now, with the walking tour app, individuals or small groups can guide themselves through “Highlights of Historical Leesburg” and the “African-American History Tour” at their own pace while enjoying everything Leesburg has to offer.
Winner: City of Fairfax
The TV/video team for the City of Fairfax was discouraged that not too many residents were watching their programming. Worse, the programming they did offer was happening after-the-fact and couldn’t be used to raise awareness about coming events. However, during the development of their new municipal website, the team noticed that most people were coming to the site via mobile and that the city’s social media traffic was increasing. Inspiration hit and the FAIRFAX CITY MINUTE – a daily, one-minute (of course), informative, entertaining video about events, issues, happening and programs in the city – was born. The approach is smart and friendly (it is embedded on Twitter and Facebook) and conveys the voice and brand of the city. The FAIRFAX CITY MINUTE has proven popular with residents and officials alike proposing story ideas and its success can be measured most tangibly by the increase in attendance at city events promoted on the program. This is a fantastic example of using existing staff and resources to engage and inform the community in a new way.
Category: COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Winner: Clifton Forge
To make way for a new facility and bring new jobs and business into the area, the town of Clifton Forge needed to remove old buildings and hazardous materials from a former CSX-owned property owned by the town since the 1990s. However, the vendor that had originally agreed to do the demolition at no cost backed out of the deal because they believed the recyclable materials onsite had been significantly depleted over the years by theft. The vendor’s decision came at a crucial point for the project with a lease/purchase agreement from a national brand signed that included a requirement for the removal of the buildings. Not wanting to lose the opportunity so close to being realized, the Town Manager worked with the Public Works Director to chart the best use of local resources to get the buildings removed on time. After prodigious effort from all involved parties, 82 truckloads of recyclable materials were sold which came very close to offsetting the cost of the entire operation. Best of all: the new tenant has invested infrastructure and created jobs in the community. A wonderful case of local government striving and succeeding when it counts.
Category: QUALITY OF LIFE
Recognizing a rise in distrust in minority communities across the country, the Lynchburg Police Department (LPD) created the Community Action Team (CAT) to develop and nurture working relationships with the local government agencies, businesses and citizens of Lynchburg. CAT officers are uniquely positioned to address these issues because they do not answer radio calls and can focus on community policing. The creation of CAT did not require any budget allocations, instead it relies upon existing community resources to accomplish its mission of addressing citizen concerns while maintaining positive relationships and building trust in the community it serves. In one instance, following a shooting in a neighborhood, CAT officers canvassed the neighborhood and provided support to the LPD. This engagement resulted in the improved understanding of the citizens’ needs and resulted in dramatically lower crime-related activity in the area. Lynchburg’s CAT is truly an example of local law enforcement putting the community first.
VML congratulates each of these local governments for demonstrating innovation in service to its citizens.
The awards will be presented at the 2018 VML Annual Conference in Hampton. VML President Dr. Patricia Woodbury, council member of Newport News, and President Elect Anita James Price, council member of Roanoke, will present the awards.
For more information about the Innovation Awards, visit www.vml.org/education/innovation-awards/.