2020 “Salute to Local Government” Winners

By Therese Schneider

We are pleased to announce our 2020 Salute to Local Government award winners!

The 28th Annual Salute celebrates the benefits that public sector ingenuity and excellence bring to taxpayers and communities throughout Wisconsin. Award categories recognize local governments and school districts for innovative problem-solving, effective use of technology, partnership, and cooperation, as well as individuals in the public sector for excellence and lifetime achievement.

Newly added this year were two award categories that highlight the unprecedented pandemic-related challenges facing local governments and school districts across the state.

The 2020 recipients are:

Innovative Approach to Problem Solving
Public Safety Department 
Village of Palmyra

What if you called 911 and nobody came? As in many communities, this was a very real concern for the citizens of Palmyra. The village’s solution was to create a Public Safety Department employing full-time public safety officers cross-trained in law enforcement, firefighting and EMS to supplement Fire Rescue paid on call responders. The department implemented strategies that enhanced teamwork and improved employee retention, leading to greatly improved outcomes within budgetary limitations – and providing a framework that could be emulated by other rural communities.

Innovative Use of Data or Technology
Park Place Performs
City of Janesville

In January 2020, the City of Janesville relaunched its online performance dashboard, Park Place Performs! This tool was originally launched in January 2017 to enable public and city officials to track progress of the city’s strategic goals. In the month following the site’s relaunch, site page views totaled 2,277 – about a 1,200% increase from the same period in 2019. Park Place Performs increases accountability and transparency of the City of Janesville for the benefit of the community.

Intergovernmental Cooperation
Barton School Apartments
Washington County

In 2012, Washington County’s Brownfield Site Redevelopment Program, with the objective of transforming formerly contaminated and unused industrial sites into new and vibrant economic developments, includes a collaboration of five municipalities with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Economic Development Washington County. The Barton School Apartments project in West Bend is a recent beneficiary of this program. It consists of 22 historically-preserved apartments renovated from the former 1924 Barton Elementary School building, and 18 townhomes constructed on the former school playground.

Honorable Mention
Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Center
Milwaukee County and the 19 municipalities

Public-Private Cooperation
Milwaukee Employment/Renovation Initiative (MERI)
City of Milwaukee Department of City Development
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI)

In the wake of the unrest in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood in August, 2016, elected officials and citizens alike called for swift action to address problems such as poor housing and lack of jobs. A partnership between state and city officials and six private developers created the MERI This initiative invested $7.9 million in over 100 tax-foreclosed properties, well above the original goal of $1 million. Further, 33,000 hours of work were performed by city residents, many of whom later received permanent employment.

Effective Response to COVID-19
Public Health & City Clerk’s Office
City of Madison

The City of Madison emerged as a model, a leader, and a success story during this difficult time, in close partnership with Dane County, State of Wisconsin, UW-Madison, the medical community, Wisconsin National Guard, and other stakeholders. The City developed extensive COVID-19 public health metrics, and held free and fair elections in the midst of this dangerous pandemic.

Honorable Mention
NR Strong
City of New Richmond

Excellence Under Pressure
TJ McCray
Director of Instructional and Library Media Services, Madison Metropolitan School District

When schools shut down on short notice due to COVID-19, TJ McCray worked to transform Wisconsin’s second largest school district — with over 27,000 students and 3,000 employees — into a virtual one. That challenge included purchasing and distributing 1,800 hotspots with six-month data plans so children without home internet had equal access to virtual learning opportunities. He also created professional development for teachers to help them adapt to this new way of teaching.

Jean B. Tyler Leader of the Future
Abby Attoun
Director of Planning and Community Development, City of Middleton

Abby Attoun leads the Department of Planning & Community Development for the City of Middleton. Thirteen years ago she started with the City as a planner, and over that time her passion, diverse interests, and collaborative approach to work and community engagement has resulted in her fingerprints being on many transformative projects, and all well before her 40th birthday. Today, she continues to lead a variety of key city initiatives involving planning, community and economic development, affordable housing, public art and sustainability.

James R. Ryan Lifetime Achievement Award
Dianne Robertson
Retired Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer, Village of Thiensville

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment over Dianne’s 45-year career was to make flooding a thing of the past in this historic community. Thiensville has erected a bridge named “Dianne’s Bridge” in her honor and she has donated a bench in her late husband’s memory to mark the area. In addition, Thiensville entered unchartered territory for most municipalities these days by becoming debt-free in 2007 and remained debt-free through her retirement.

Norman N. Gill Award For Individual Excellence
Dale Peters
City Manager, City of Eau Claire

It’s a testament to the collaborative, results-oriented leadership style of Eau Claire City Manager Dale Peters that area business and community leaders breathed a collective sigh of relief this past spring when he postponed his May retirement until the end of the COVID-19 crisis. A city employee since l989, he’s developed a well-earned reputation for effective and innovative management.