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Center Recognizes Local Governments for Workforce Excellence

November 11, 2011


(From left) San Francisco City & County CFO Brent Lewis, Human Resources Managing Deputy Director Ted Yamasaki, and Human Resources Director Micki Callahan; Center for Excellence President/CEO Elizabeth Kellar; Senator George Voinovich; and San Francisco City & County Workforce Development Director Donna Kotake

Governments cultivating workforce and planning for future needs within financial realities

The City and County of San Francisco was the recipient of the Center’s inaugural Local Government Workforce Excellence Award in recognition of its comprehensive approach to its workforce challenges

The award included complimentary training and professional development programs offered by the partner organizations supporting the award, the National League of Cities, ICMA, Government Finance Officers Association, and International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR).

Two other local governments received honorable mention awards: Coconino County, AZ, and the local governments of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, CA.

“The city and county governments we are recognizing take a long-term perspective,” said Center President/CEO Elizabeth K. Kellar. “They collect the facts and figures on their workforce. They find creative ways to save money while still investing in their people. They enable their employees to learn and grow so they can promote from within. They are flexible and think outside the box. They track their results so they know what works and what doesn’t. And they are all grounded in the belief that their people are their greatest resource.”

The award was presented at the National League of Cities Congress of Cities in Phoenix, AZ.

The Center also presented an award to George Voinovich, former U.S. senator, governor of Ohio, and mayor of Cleveland, for his distinguished public service career at all levels of government.

Award Winner: City and County of San Francisco, CA

San Francisco has a comprehensive workforce program that is geared to attracting, retaining, and developing its 26,000 employees, who work in 26 agencies.

Its policies include:

  • cross-agency workforce assessment and planning, including sharing best practices
  • telecommuting
  • hiring retirees for short-term projects
  • leave policies to meet a wide range of employee needs

In addition, San Francisco has a partnership with the state university’s extended learning program and the city college to help employees gain essential job-related skills.

Among San Francisco’s high performance tactics are:

  • internal leadership programs developed by city departments
  • formalized feedback using a 360-degree model for supervisors and managers
  • written performance appraisals tied to expectations in yearly performance plans
  • a partnership with the national service corps City Hall Fellows to recruit and retain recent 
college graduates
    employee communications through a robust website and quarterly newsletter.

Watch a video on San Francisco’s innovative workforce programs.

Honorable Mention: Coconino County, AZ

Coconino County has used innovative strategies in the last several years of economic challenges to cut costs without reducing its emphasis on work-life balance for its 1,200 employees.

Employees can job share, phase into retirement, and purchase up to 10 personal days a year. The county also offers flexible scheduling and telecommuting, especially helpful to employees with children and those who live in rural areas.

The county involves employees in developing outreach strategies, which have attracted a large and diverse pool of applicants, reduced turnover, and enhanced branding efforts. An employee suggestion program resulted in internal candidates filling 40 percent of vacancies and a six percent decrease in turnover in two years.

Employees at every stage of their career have access to training and education. To tap the expertise of employees nearing retirement, the county is cross training and developing internal talent to succeed them. The county also offers retirement planning classes to help employees with their next phase in life.

Honorable Mention: The local governments in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, CA

Local governments in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties offer a model of regional, multi-government initiatives using economies of scale to accelerate employees’ development, retain high-potential talent, and attract young and diverse people to local government.

Initiatives to grow and retain talent include:

  • a management talent exchange program
  • a forum for future city and county managers
  • leadership academies for emerging leaders
  • speed coaching events.

To attract talent, the Committee offers a regional internship program, job shadow day for university students and a guide to local government careers and annual forum for Bay Area university career centers.

The award review committee was made up of representatives from ICMA, the National League of Cities, the Government Finance Officers Association, and the International Public Management Association for Human Resources.

The Center thanks the following organizations for their support for the Award:


IBTS (Institute for Building Technology and Safety)
Ibbotson/Morningstar Investment Management
Mesirow Financial

ICC (International Code Council)
IML Worldwide

Smartworks Plus, Inc.

Download the award program.


November 11, 2011