These Local Officials Scored Spots on a Parks and Recreation-Themed Good Government Ranking

The ranking from Engaging Local Government Leaders is named after energetic — some would say Type A — fictional city manager Chris Traeger from the former NBC show

click to enlarge Chris Traeger - Photo: Parks and Recreation YouTube
Photo: Parks and Recreation YouTube
Chris Traeger

Three local leaders got top honors on a new good-government ranking, and it is literally blowing our minds.

But let’s back up for just a minute and talk about the best part of all of this first.

The 100-spot ranking is released every year by good government group Engaging Local Government Leaders, and it’s named after Parks and Recreation character Chris Traeger.

The popular show ran from 2009 to 2015 and captured a somewhat more optimistic view of government than we’re probably used to these days via a fictional parks department in Pawnee, Ind.

Rob Lowe plays Traeger, a fitness-obsessed government administrator and the only character even more sunny and uhm, sliiiightly Type-A than lead character Leslie Knope.

We’re sure all our local officials won their awards fair and square and that Lowe’s background growing up nearby in Dayton didn’t influence the rankings. But it probably didn’t hurt.

So why pick a fictional character to honor real-life public servants?

“Our perfect Traeger List award winner is someone who has a jammed packed daily schedule, but makes time for an informational interview or to present a webinar to a nationwide audience. Our list is full of individuals quiver at the phrase ‘I’m too busy,’ ” ELGL said back in 2016 about the list.

This year, Cincinnati landed not one but three public officials on ranking, which is voted on by ELGL membership.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works Director Cathy Bailey meeting with EPA officials earlier this year about the city's removal of lead service lines - Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Protection Agency
Greater Cincinnati Water Works Director Cathy Bailey meeting with EPA officials earlier this year about the city's removal of lead service lines

Greater Cincinnati Water Works Director Cathy Bailey is No. 4 on the 100-spot ranking. Bailey is the first African American and first woman to lead the 200-year-old utility that pumps out 48 billion gallons of water a year. She’s been with Water Workers since 1992 and worked her way up the ranks to become director in 2017. ELGL calls Bailey “an effective leader in Cincinnati and an incredible advocate for the water industry.”

She's also been a ceaseless advocate for removing lead from municipal water. Oh, and her Twitter handle is amazing.

Cincinnati Parks Director Wade Walcutt also made the list, ranking No. 26. Walcutt became the leader of Cincinnati’s park system — one of the 10 best in the country — last year and hasn’t wasted time getting to work. He has already navigated some tough decisions and a touchy — but we feel ultimately successful — public input process around potential development in Burnet Woods, one of the city’s most popular parks. It’s nice to see public input efforts that don’t go like this.

“Wade and his team have developed a very clear vision of building better lives and a better community through enhancing quality of life, improving health and wellness, conserving natural resources and creating sustainable economic impacts,” ELGL writes.

Last but not least, City of Cincinnati Chief Performance Officer Leigh Tami made No. 31 on the list. She’s done lots of hard work on the city’s open data portal and data visualization efforts, bringing a wealth of important information to Cincinnati residents in easy-to-understand, quick-to-parse formats.

Leigh’s data visualization of (the city’s) open data is inspiring and her work on the opioid outbreak has shown how data viz can be used across the US to stem the tide of opioids,” her nomination for the ELGL list reads.

Sharonville Mayor Kevin Hardman also scored recognition on the list, and Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith made the ranking in 2016 and again this year.

We're eagerly waiting for someone to make a Ron Swanson list, which will feature public servants who eat the most bacon, cut the most budgets to zero and wrestle the most bears in the course of their civic duties.

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