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PUBLIC OFFICIALS of the YEAR

Bertha-W.-HenryPUBLIC OFFICIALS of the YEAR

Bertha Henry 2017 HONOREE ,Administrator, Broward County, Florida

By J.B. Wogan

All photos by David Kidd

      Every year since 1994, Governing has honored individual state and local government officials for outstanding accomplishment by naming them Public Officials of the Year. Elected, appointed and career officials from any branch of state or local government are eligible. Our readers are invited to nominate individuals who have had a notable positive impact on their department or agency, community or state.

     Governing annually receives several hundred nominations from individuals in the public and private sectors. In addition, Governing staff consults experts and scholars in the field, and also nominates outstanding individuals they encounter in the course of their work. Nominations are evaluated by a selection committee, which, after painstaking research, chooses the winners.

      Bertha Henry took over as Broward County administrator at what must have seemed to her the worst possible time. She had spent 30 years working up to a top position in local government only to reach it in 2010 in the middle of a crippling recession. Rather than setting ambitious new goals for the county, she had to focus on minimizing the recession’s impact on her workforce. “Many of our employees were the only breadwinner in their families,” she says. “I did not want to add to the growing list of the unemployed.”

Henry implemented a series of strategies to protect her workers. Like a lot of places, Broward County instituted a hiring freeze and had to downsize some departments. But Henry made sure the county had taken inventory of the affected employees’ skills so she could avoid layoffs and fill vacant slots. When service cuts were inevitable, she tried to trim where citizens would least notice. She looked at data showing which days were busiest at local libraries, and then closed neighborhood branches on the days with the lightest use.

Henry studied accounting in college, and her first job was as a budget analyst for the city of Miami, where she grew up. Later she held multiple posts in local government in Florida and Ohio. But strict financial management has been a consistent theme throughout her career. Three years ago, Broward became one of only four Florida counties to receive AAA bond ratings from all three credit rating agencies.

Over nearly a decade as county administrator, the 62-year-old Henry has left a lasting mark on the Fort Lauderdale metro area, particularly when it comes to infrastructure and economic development. Due to her efforts in building a new runway, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has become the fastest-growing airport in the country, and recently added four international airlines. She engineered a deal to keep the area’s pro hockey team, the Florida Panthers, from declaring bankruptcy and leaving the state. Under the contract she worked out, all of the $86 million in new public investment for the team goes toward capital improvements and operating costs for the arena, meaning that if the team ever left, the county would still own a valuable asset. The deal allowed the county to refinance its bond debt for the arena and get a lower interest rate.

A good example of Henry’s management style was her intervention in a dispute over ride-sharing rules. Two years ago, the Broward County commission passed regulations, including a fingerprinting requirement for drivers, which prompted Uber and Lyft to suspend operations in the county. Henry crafted a compromise that satisfied both the regulators and the private companies. The amended law required criminal background checks for drivers, but not fingerprinting, and instead of a rule that would have made the county responsible for forcing drivers to be insured, she arranged to have the ride-sharing companies verify that their drivers have insurance. As a result, Uber and Lyft came back. This year, the Florida Legislature enacted rules that supersede what localities already had on the books. Nonetheless, Dan Lindblade, who heads the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, says Henry still deserves credit for brokering the deal. “That takes a unique leader,” Lindblade says.

 PUBLIC OFFICIALS of the YEAR

Marybel-BatjerMarybel Batjer

Secretary of Government Operations

As California’s first-ever Secretary of Government Operations, Marybel Batjer is streamlining a notoriously large and inefficient bureaucracy.

 

Phil-BertoliniPhil Bertolini

Chief Information Officer

Phil Bertolini believes in sharing resources with other jurisdictions that lack access to crucial technology.

Tom-DartTom Dart

Sheriff

“If they’re going to make it so that I am going to be the largest mental health provider, we’re going to treat these people as patients.”

 

Jim-Denning-&-Jim-WardJim Denning & Jim Ward

Senate Majority Leader & House Minority Leader

At a time of historic national division, two state legislators helped lead a bipartisan effort to secure Kansas’ fiscal future.

Terry-McAuliffeTerry McAuliffe

Governor

From his tireless push for international trade to his historic crusade on restoring voting rights for former felons, the governor has made an indelible impact on Virginia.

 

Greg-StantonGreg Stanton

Mayor

Phoenix’s mayor tapped into an economic boom to reverse decades of unsustainable environmental practices and make his city a vibrant, livable place for generations to come.

Leana-Wen-Leana Wen

Health Commissioner

Growing up in a low-income, heavily immigrant neighborhood taught Baltimore’s Leana Wen how crucial physical health is to the overall well-being of any community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    About The Author

    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

    Number of Entries : 10907

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