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2024 Public Officials of the Year

About the Public Officials of the Year Luncheon

Since 2011, the Master of Public Administration program has honored local elected officials, public servants and practitioners who have laid the groundwork for public service in the Houston area at an annual awards luncheon. The luncheon proceeds provide student scholarships, making the academic journeys and experiences of Master of Administration candidates a reality.  

Nominations for the prestigious awards begin in the fall. A selection committee led by the Hobby School Alumni Association reviews nominations and honors local changemakers who best exemplify public service values, ethical decision-making, navigating a challenging work environment and maintaining supportive relationships across jurisdictional boundaries.

“These officials exhibit qualities consistent with those of the MPA Program—trust, accountability, performance, ethical decision-making and crossing jurisdictional boundaries to solve problems. We are honored to have them recognized as distinguished public officials,” said James Thurmond, former director of the UH MPA program and current professor of practice at the Hobby School.

2024 Highlights 

The Master of Public Administration program recognized four Houston area public officials who exemplify the highest standards in public service at the 2024 Public Officials of the Year Luncheon on April 19 at the University of Houston. 

The public service leaders were celebrated for serving their communities through dynamic problem-solving, innovative and ethical leadership, improving the lives of others and tackling complex challenges. 

A resounding program theme and a consistent characteristic of honorees is a strong desire to solve issues through collaboration, reaching beyond departments and individual cities to other jurisdictions and sectors with government, nonprofits and corporate partners. 2024 Honorees

The 2024 recipients are Austin Bleess, city manager for the City of Jersey Village; Greg Babst, emergency management coordinator, Fort Bend County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; James Huguenard, member of the Board of Commissioners of the Memorial Villages Police Department; and Olivera Jankovska, director of the Houston Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement. 

Best Paper Honorees

Dahlia Chaudhury and Elissa Miller, two graduate candidates in the Master of Public Administration program, received the 2024 Kathleen P. Rubinstein Best Paper Award