The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Master of Public Administration Program’s annual Public Official of the Year Ceremony recognizes Houston-area public officials who solve large and small problems to meet the daily needs of the citizens they serve. To honor the work of these elected and appointed public servants, the program hosts an annual luncheon to recognize the individuals selected as Public Officials of the Year.
This year, four winners were chosen from a wide-range of nominees representing the full-spectrum of public administration work. The winners exhibit qualities consistent with those espoused in the MPA Program – trust, accountability, performance, ethical decision-making, and crossing jurisdictional boundaries to solve problems.
The keynote speaker at the event will be City of Houston Controller Chris Brown. The luncheon is underwritten by former City of Houston Councilmember Peter Brown, who currently serves as Director of Better Houston.
The winners will all be recognized during the March 3rd luncheon, 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM, University of Houston Hilton Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom. RSVPs to attend the event can be made through Eventbrite at goo.gl/4eu7ML. Table sponsorships are also available at https://giving.uh.edu/mpa .
The 2017 winners are:
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett
Judge Emmett has consistently worked to propose, and accomplish, good public policy on a variety of complex issues including county ethics reform, transportation and mobility, and eliminating duplication and redundancy of services between various jurisdictions and levels of government to meet the needs and demands of an ever-changing Harris County populace.
His efforts at solving problems with other units of government include the Joint Law Enforcement Processing Center with the City of Houston; animal control with the City of Houston and major stakeholders; and coordinating multiple governmental agencies and volunteers before, during, and after storm and flooding events to expedite Harris County’s recovery.
He also led the push to preserve and revitalize the Astrodome for several years culminating in a unanimous vote by the Harris County Commissioners Court in September 2016 to convert the building into underground parking and usable public space.
Judge Emmett looks toward Harris County’s future and anticipates how to handle its ever-evolving landscape in such a way that a quality county urban governance results.
City of Houston Director of Administration and Regulatory Affairs Tina Paez
As the City’s chief administrative and regulatory officer, Ms. Paez oversees 13 distinct and unique business operations within the City. She is responsible for city business permits, on-street and public parking and was instrumental in the overhaul of BARC, the municipal animal shelter. Noteworthy accomplishments include working with stakeholders to implement a framework allowing Uber and Lyft to operate legally while still protecting public safety; implementing an innovative solution to improve animal control and live release outcomes simultaneously; and improved integration between 311 call center software and public works software.
In September 2015 Ms. Paez was named International Regulator of the Year by the International Association of Transportation Regulators.
Mayor Tom Ramsey of Spring Valley Village
During his term, Mayor Ramsey has worked with Spring Valley Village City Council to prepare its first ever five-year capital improvement plan; coordinated with the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and multiple local governments on an incident involving a major chemical spill into Spring Branch Creek; initiated contracts with new vendors in lieu of long standing vendors to better serve interests of the city; and passed a bond election which funded a new City Hall and police department building during Mayor Ramsey’s term.
He works with the five adjacent west Houston villages, City of Houston, Spring Branch ISD, Harris County, and state representative to ensure a collaborative approach to problem solving in Spring Valley.
Richmond City Manager Terri Vela
Ms. Vela guided the adoption of Richmond’s first home rule charter; the passage of a new comprehensive master plan and the city’s first zoning ordinance; implemented a strategic annexation strategy; and helped develop an award winning Parks and Trails Master Plan.
During the historic floods of 2015 and 2016, she supervised the Office of Emergency Management and monitored all rescue efforts -- which meant at one point of staying on duty for 14 days at the Office of Emergency Management.
Under Ms. Vela’s leadership, Richmond has reduced taxes for five years and counting while improving city services and maintaining the City’s excellent bond rating.