Humphrey School News—November 12, 2014

Humphrey School Recognizes Local Government Entities for Innovation and Creativity

Minneapolis, MN (11/12/14)—The Humphrey School of Public Affairs today announced winners of its eighth annual Local Government Innovation Awards. As local governments struggle with cutbacks at state and federal levels, these awards—organized in partnership with the Bush Foundation and co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota School Board Association, and the Minnesota Association of Townships—recognize local entities that are most creative in providing services to Minnesotans. From the ways they provide farm fresh foods to school children and help youth develop careers to how they regulate septic systems, 20 government entities are being recognized for their innovative ways of doing business.

“The federal and state governments are putting financial pressure on local governments to do more with less,” says Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “At the end of the day, cities, counties, towns, and schools have to rethink and redesign the services they provide—which could mean contracting for more services, considering centralization versus decentralization, or changing eligibility—and help the community understand those changes.” 

The awards program expanded this year to include townships in addition to the existing categories of counties, cities, and schools. Four judging panels considered nearly 100 submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and collaboration and selected five winners from each category. One overall winner from each category will receive a $5,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to continue their work and a professionally produced video to use to share the story of their work with others. All 20 winners will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony and reception Thursday, December 11, at the Humphrey School.

Overall category winners of the 2014 Local Government Innovation Awards include:

City: Saint Paul, Right Track Youth Career Development Pipeline
This pipeline for youth career development helps the City of Saint Paul create a diverse workforce by providing work experiences and skills development for youth facing barriers. Three stages include: providing city-subsidized jobs for youth in parks, libraries, and nonprofit organizations; matching youth with employer-paid internships and skills training; and connecting youth with advanced opportunities in such sectors as IT and emergency medical services. In 2014, private sector partnerships leveraged an additional $127,000 in wages paid by employers directly to youth.

County: Cook County, Septic Regulation Implementation 
Located in rural Northeastern Minnesota, Cook County adopted innovative language into its septic ordinance that makes treatment of wastewater more affordable for homeowners. A traditional septic system costs upwards of $25,000, but this new ordinance allows for “low-tech,” ecological alternatives that offer homeowners the option of building their own system for $250 to $7,000. These alternatives are particularly appropriate for unconventional housing, like yurts, trailers, tents, and teepees, and reduce the cost of home ownership. 

School: ISD 256 Red Wing Public Schools, Every Hand Joined
This program is a community-wide cradle-to-career initiative that ensures the community’s economic viability by increasing the number of college-educated residents. Red Wing schools, businesses, and nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are working to make sure that every child is prepared for school, is supported throughout his or her K-12 and college experiences, and begins a career. The program has already increased participation in the school district’s Kindergarten Boot Camp by 90%.

Township: Oronoco Township, Kings Park Sewer Project
A new sewage treatment system in Oronoco now serves 14 homes located on Lake Zumbro, where E. coli bacteria and sewage threatened water safety in the lake and Zumbro River. The township worked collaboratively with community members, engineers, and regulatory agencies to offer its citizens a non-typical service of building a sewer system. Previously, at least nine homes were identified as having inadequate septic systems, which were contaminating groundwater and nearby waterways, threatening public health and safety.

The complete list of winners includes:


  • City of Saint Paul: Right Track Youth Career Development Pipeline (Overall Category Winner)
  • City of Burnsville: Burnsville Police Use of On-Officer Cameras
  • City of Hopkins: Cottageville Park Project
  • City of Saint Louis Park: Job Rotation Program
  • City of Richfield: Kids @ Home


  • Cook County: Septic Regulation Implementation (Overall Category Winner)
  • Hennepin County: Stable Families Initiative
  • Ramsey County: Automated Recidivism Tracking System
  • Sherburne County: Talahi Educational Neglect Support (TENS)
  • Saint Louis County: Community Sanctions Program


  • ISD 256, Red Wing Public Schools: Every Hand Joined (Overall Category Winner)
  • ISD 181, Brainerd Public Schools: Farm to School
  • Farmington Area Public Schools: Flexible Learning Days
  • Robbinsdale Area Schools: Helping Us Grow (HUG)
  • District 833: Adult Basic Education and Washington County Workforce


  • Oronoco Township: Kings Park Sewer Project (Overall Category Winner)
  • Athens Township: Mann Field Athens Township
  • Bridgewater Township: Reducing Energy Costs for Rural Neighborhoods
  • Livonia Township: Livonia Township
  • Grand Lake Township: Community Center

To learn more about the awards program, visit

In conjunction with the awards, the Humphrey School is hosting a seminar for state and local government officials and others interested in innovation that delves into emerging trends and opportunities for government creativity and service design. The seminar, which includes workshops and presentations, is scheduled for December 5, 2014 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. Learn more and register.

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