Click on each block to read their nomination story.
Wayne Davis is a life-long public servant, one who embodies the City of Centerville’s mission to provide exceptional services through thoughtful governance to ensure progress and stability. His work is never done; he propels staff to advance toward achievement of their strategic goals in pursuit of continuous improvement.
In the third decade of his career, Mr. Davis took on the enormous task of a cultural transformation when he took the helm in the city of Centerville, Ohio. Prior to his leadership, there was no strategic plan or overarching mission, vision or values. City Council hired Mr. Davis for his experience in strategic leadership and commitment to customer service. Mr. Davis has delivered, and he will leave a legacy in Centerville will continue to inspire and strengthen the city.
Serving local and federal government for a majority of his career, Wayne Davis began his public service as a budget analyst for the United States Air Force after receiving a degree in economics from the University of Vermont and attending the United States Air Force Budget Officers School. Mr. Davis attended Wright State University and earned his Master of Urban Affairs, Public Administration while working as a management analyst for the Montgomery County Office of Management and Budget. While continuing his public duties in local government, Mr. Davis transferred to the Combined Health District of Montgomery County to serve as a budget analyst. Throughout his career, Wayne Davis has continually enhanced his management and leadership skills. He attended the University of Virginia’s LEAD Program at the Commonwealth Center for High Performing Organizations (HPO). This experience was transformational, and Mr. Davis has dedicated his life’s work to empowering employees at all levels and creating high-performing organizations.
Mr. Davis spent several years as the Finance Director and then Assistant City Manager for the City of Montgomery, Ohio. Following the growth and application of his management skills, Mr. Davis then served as City Manager for five years in Montgomery. While serving Montgomery, he executed strategic planning processes, internal operations and led the implementation of an effective budget reduction. As a leader in Montgomery, Mr. Davis expanded collaboration to include business and community stakeholders to improve public awareness. In service to the community, he led two major development projects and management of the legislative process with City Council.
Active as a community leader, Wayne Davis continues to serve local government at the City of Centerville, Ohio. He has greatly increased communication between City Council and staff in his role. Mr. Davis continues to serve the City of Centerville as a dedicated servant to democracy to enhance services and provide value to taxpayers. In his four years as City Manager, he has been the key member of crafting and leading the management team, preparing and leading efforts with the annual budget, major development projects and administrative processes. Mr. Davis serves with community entities such as Rotary International and is an active and valued member of ICMA and OCMA, even serving as a past president of OCMA. Throughout his career, Wayne Davis has excelled in management roles and invites other community leaders to continue their learning and growth to enhance quality of life in their communities.
The city of Centerville is in the midst of an important time for redevelopment to embrace “progress and stability.” Wayne Davis is overseeing a $20 million revitalization project in the historical and business heart of the city. The city’s public golf course boasts recording-breaking rounds exceeding 69,000 each year. The city worked with a developer to construct a new park space amidst commercial development while its largest park space is in the midst of a $4 million upgrade aimed at improving access for all residents and visitors. This is made possible by more than $1 million in state capital and grant funding. Advocacy is one of Mr. Davis’s greatest strengths. He also championed the first-ever Fund Balance Policy in Centerville, along with implementation of new enterprise resource planning software. Recently, Kettering Health Network opened a new Centerville Health Center, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital announced its first Dayton construction would be in Centerville.
Additionally, the city is embarking on several exciting new opportunities. Centerville just launched a public mural program, and Kroger selected a Centerville Kroger store to pilot drone grocery delivery – the first in the country. Mr. Davis has been a catalyst on installation of a multi-mile fiber optic service ring designed to allow partner cities to work more efficiently on projects and to combine resources to gain economies of scale.
Mr. Davis encourages and provides opportunities for City employees, residents, and community partners to attend leadership forums, conferences, and participation as seen through the implementation of LEAD and HPO. He values the importance of continued education; in fact, thanks to him – the management book Good to Great can be found throughout offices at the City of Centerville. Mr. Davis’s achievement as a leader is celebrated through his nomination for OCMA’s Career Achievement Award.
Larry Burks and the West Chest Board of Trustees
Larry Burks and the West Chester Township Board of Trustees provided a significant commitment of resources to support the professional development of a rising star, Lisa Brown, within their township organization. Their approach to professional development will benefit Ms. Brown, their township, and the local government profession as a whole.
Not long after West Chester Township Administrator Larry Burks hired his Assistant Administrator Lisa Brown, he recognized she had a unique talent – Brown’s remarkable ability to process information and identify policy and law foundations within the complex field of personnel management. Burks was pleased that Brown’s skills were benefitting an HR department essentially being rebuilt from scratch. On the other hand, Burks knew Brown would be poised to shed the Assistant title and assume her own CAO/CEO position when the opportunity became available.
Burks had to focus on retention. Great managers and leaders develop leadership from within. As such, Burks suggested something uncommon in the field of public administration – law school for Lisa Brown. Burks approached his Law Director for his opinion. Brown was essentially coordinating most of the legal activities at the township and the Law Director witnessed Brown’s abilities in the legal arena. The Law Director thought the idea was great. This would secure Brown and administrative continuity for at least seven years–and Brown deserved it.
Burks approached Brown with a proposal: the Township would reimburse her for half of her law school tuition in exchange for an agreement that she stay with the Township for 3 years after her last reimbursement payment. The term shared with the Board of Trustees was “golden handcuffs.” They supported the idea and Brown accepted. Brown applied for and received a merit scholarship, and her half of the tuition is paid. In addition to completing all her work at the Township, Brown has achieved A’s after her first term of law school at the University of Dayton.
West Chester Leadership secured a top-quality employee on the rise for essentially a minimum of seven years in exchange for building the future for a quality employee. If everything goes as planned, Burks anticipates an offer for Brown to serve as the township’s Law Director after she passes the bar exam.
City of Upper Arlington and the Curbside Food Waste Program Expansion
In 2019, Upper Arlington established a food waste collection project to decrease the amount of food being sent to the landfill. The program was expanded in 2020 to include an education campaign in partnership with SWACO and three food waste drop-off sites open to all residents. In 2022, the city took this program to the next level by launching a pilot program for curbside food waste collection. The program was made possible through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program is operated by the City’s partner, GoZERO Services, the non-profit courier service for residential recycling of food scraps for composting that was already running the drop-off program at three Upper Arlington locations. The program has won the attention of many media outlets including most recently a story with The New York Times. Through programs like this, Upper Arlington has diverted over 1 million pounds of waste from the landfill since 2017.
City of Hamilton and the 17STRONG Initiative
There are seventeen neighborhoods in Hamilton, and those within the 17STRONG movement believe that a more connected city is a stronger city. Connecting people to information, resources, and to each other is a way to build stronger neighborhoods. The 17STRONG motto says, “We is greater than Me.”
The 17STRONG Advisory Board is an official committee of Hamilton City Council. It is the only board or commission of Council that is provided with direct financial resources to support its goals of building a proud and more connected community.
This board is composed of twelve residents of diverse backgrounds and geographies within the city, that direct those precious general funds to meet our goals. Since its creation in 2016, City Council has provided $50,000 in annual funding. The majority of that funding has gone toward a microgrant program.
The Board will award up to $2,500 for resident-led projects that increase connections within neighborhoods, between neighborhoods, or between them and the City. The idea is to empower residents to identify the solutions that they would like to lead in their corner of our city.
The 17STRONG Advisory Board has expanded this program to different audiences and purposes in recent years. The City of Hamilton was one of 10 cities to be awarded the Love Your Block grant from Cities of Service, an offshoot of Bloomberg Philanthropies. This led to our local Love Your Block program which is a celebration of the front yards and porches of our homes, which are critical spaces where neighbors connect and show pride in their community. This grant asks 3-5 neighbors within visual proximity to jointly apply for the labor and funds for some minor paint-and-fix and landscaping projects.
Also relatively new is our Nanogrant program in partnership with the elementary schools within our local school district. The grants challenge 5th and 6th graders to apply for and lead projects up to $500. We are entering our 3rd year of this very successful program.
At its core, 17STRONG is about building a more connected community. Grants are just one strategy we employ. 17STRONG has also initiated a number of new outreach programs, such as the Better Hamilton Neighborhoods Series, Coffee with Council, and our Community Cleanup Chest (aka “The CUBE”).
The Better Hamilton Neighborhoods Series is an opportunity for residents to hear directly from experts on a range of topics from blight and potholes, to arts and healthcare.
Coffee with Council is a program that takes our City Council members out of Council Chambers and into parks across the city on a Saturday morning. The format involves a featured topic and speaker that then gives way to opening the conversation to whatever is on the minds of residents. Topics range from the impacts of a large development to street construction and paving.
The CUBE (Community Cleanup Chest) is a box trailer that is provided, free of charge, to any resident who wishes to host a trash cleanup in their neighborhood. It is full of everything needed for a cleanup, such as trash bags, gloves, pickers, hi-vis vests, rakes, shovels, and much more.
17STRONG is a hands-on approach to shaping the future of our neighborhoods and city. It has been effective in providing a framework for communication and a sense of identity to rally individuals, groups, and other organizations to take pride in their particular corner of the city.
The vision for Hamilton’s neighborhoods is to celebrate, not separate. 17STRONG constantly works to identify and amplify what makes the neighborhoods in Hamilton special, and to provide a structure that is inclusive of all Hamiltonians.
Cities of Clayton, Englewood, and Union, and the Fire Department Collaboration
In 2018 the Clayton, Englewood and Union Fire Departments started conducting joint trainings on a regular basis due to the amount of AMAR or mutual aid provided by one another on a regular basis. The fire departments realized the benefits from these AMAR responses and joint trainings and the goal became to safeguard our communities through a professional, efficient, and effective system of services, which utilizes the closest, most appropriate apparatus.
All three fire departments conducted a comprehensive analysis to see what areas needed improvements to accomplish this goal collaboratively. The areas that needed improvement were adequate staffing at all four fire stations, availability of part-time personnel, large coverage area split by jurisdictional boundaries, duplication of services, duplication of capital expenditures and response times. To improve in these areas the fire departments needed support from the City Managers and City Councils. In March of 2020 all three cities formally approved the MOU, which went into effect on June 2, 2020.
The Fire Department Collaborative had overwhelming support from all three cities. To ensure adequate staffing at each fire station, a minimum staffing standard was created, staffing was redistributed among the fire stations and additional career firefighters were hired. The collaborative shares three Battalion Chiefs, which run the day-to-day operations for all four stations. This alleviated the need for each city to have their own Battalion Chiefs or shift commanders. The Part-time employees were given the opportunity to become employees with all three cities, which would increase their ability to work more hours. Currently, 40% of the employees work for multiple cities within the Collaborative. This has stabilized our part-time staffing in the short term, and we are continuing to explore long term solutions. The three cities combined are nearly 34 square miles with a population of over 33,000 residents. The Fire Department Collaborative utilizes 4 fire stations for emergency responses and the closest most appropriate apparatus to respond to emergencies. The municipal boundaries have been removed regarding fire department responses, which has improved response times. Duplication of service or effort has been reduced by joint purchases, CPR classes, public education, scheduling system, records management system, and training opportunities. Duplication of capital expenditures was an area where all three communities would see the most cost savings from the Collaborative. The collaborative reduced the amount of apparatus (fire engine, ladder truck and medic units) and firefighting gear. Savings over the next 15 years is estimated to be 5 million dollars. The response times were average across all three communities, and now due to the philosophy of the closest most appropriate apparatus responds as well as a new response time standard that employees must meet. The Fire Department Collaborative response time is 3:55, which is down as much as one minute and thirty seconds.
The three cities and fire departments view the improvements and progress as a success thus far. The success is due to the adherence to our goal to safeguard our communities through a professional, efficient, and effective system of services, which utilizes the closest, most appropriate apparatus as well as buy in from all three cities, fire department command staff, firefighters and most importantly the community.
Village of Gibsonburg and the R3 Initiative
The Village of Gibsonburg strives to provide the best possible community in which people can live, work and play. A rural community of approximately 2,600 residents, Gibsonburg is located in Sandusky County, 33 miles west of Toledo. Known for an immense amount of pride and an incredible work ethic, Gibsonburg applied and was accepted in late 2020 to the Reimagining Rural Regions Program (R3) sponsored by Bowling Green State University’s Division of Research and Economic Engagement, the Center for Regional Development, and the Center for Public Impact.
The R3 Initiative was developed to provide expertise and capacity to assist communities to undertake a placemaking process to identify assets that could be reimagined in an effort to improve quality of life and to aid in the retention and attraction of talent. The R3 Initiative leveraged community assets and expertise, economic and community engagement expertise of the sponsoring agencies and the subject matter expertise and capacity of BGSU faculty and students to make meaningful change in the community.
The R3 Initiative process was comprised of two stages. In the first stage, BGSU Faculty and Staff facilitated a year long community led placemaking process to identify assets and expertise that make Gibsonburg unique, challenges faced by residents of Gibsonburg and opportunities and strategies to enhance the assets of Gibsonburg to position the community to retain and attract new talent and new businesses. The placemaking process was led by a volunteer community steering committee comprised of local leaders and high school students from the community who could provide real time youth perspective and feedback on initiatives under consideration. The placemaking process resulted in the development of a strategy and implementation steps all generated from public outreach efforts (surveys, presence at community events, etc..) for the community to take to improve the quality of life for our residents.
The second stage of the R3 Initiative was the involvement of BGSU students and faculty teams to assist the community in determining ways to implement the community placemaking projects identified during the outreach efforts of the first stage.
The R3 Project identified that the Logyard Park Rehabilitation Project was the one thing that the community believed would meet the goals and objectives of the R3 Program. Logyard Park was once the site of a vacant and abandoned gas station and parking lot. The project will transform the area into a vibrant park area in the center of the village and will serve as a spearhead towards downtown revitalization.
Gibsonburg was the smallest community involved in the inaugural Reimagining Rural Regions effort (St. Mary’s and Van Wert were the other two communities involved in the original effort). Gibsonburg’s inclusion in the program and the efforts and results that came from it assisted in obtaining substantial State Capital Budget Funding for the Logyard Park Rehabilitation Project as well as Ohio Department of Natural Resources Natureworks Grant Funding for the project.
The Village of Gibsonburg is extremely proud to be a part of the R3 Initiative. The results of the program have provided the village with a valuable means by which to improve the quality of live in the community, continuing to make it the best possible place in which to live, work and play.
City of Hamilton and the Spooky Nook Champion Mill
Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill is one of the largest preservation projects in Southwest Ohio and the largest private investment in the City of Hamilton in decades. The project is an adaptive reuse of a former industrial paper mill into a 1-million square foot mixed-use project. The project includes indoor and outdoor sports facilities, a fitness center, convention center, hotel, retail, and restaurant spaces, and is projected to attract 1.2 million guests per year. The project is the largest indoor sports facility in North America and contains the second-largest convention center in the Greater Cincinnati Area. Spooky Nook has already become a major catalyzing force toward the revitalization and reinvestment effort in the urban core of Hamilton even though its first major tournament was just held this February.
Champion Mill is one of the oldest and largest industrial manufacturing sites in the Greater Cincinnati area, at 130 years old and 40 acres in size. The mill opened in 1893 and at its height employed 4,000 people. The 40-acre former brownfield is located on the banks of the Great Miami River in Hamilton’s Prospect Hill neighborhood, within 1,000 feet of the central business district. When the mill closed in 2012, City leaders expected that the highest bidder would be someone purchasing it for dead storage which would lead to demolition by neglect.
Despite the challenges and risks associated with the property, the City of Hamilton decided to take aggressive action and control the future of such an impactful and iconic piece of the city’s history by purchasing it themselves. The City spent the next four years trying to figure out what to do with the property, trying to recruit a variety of users to the complex. By 2014, plans started to form about possibly creating a sports complex and in 2016 the space was announced to be preserved, reinvented, and redeveloped to what would become Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill through a public-private partnership led by Spooky Nook Sports out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the City of Hamilton.
In the wake of the 2016 announcement of Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, more than 90 new businesses have opened or expanded, totaling over $390 million in new investment within the city. The facility will be a regional powerhouse, projecting over 10,000 visitors in a single weekend, generating up to $90 million in on and off-site spending annually, and creating over 400 jobs. This influx of visitor spending is expected to be transformational for Hamilton, continuing to drive new investment and strengthen our community with the influx of outside spending.
The transformative use of Spooky Nook Sports echoes the legacy of Champion Mill as a driver of economic and residential development and regional draw to the City of Hamilton. Through a strong public-private partnership the restoration of the property will allow it to survive and continue to service Hamilton residents for many more years to come. Additionally, this project has led to the restoration of multiple other historic industrial sites within the city, preserving Hamilton’s significant manufacturing history and paying homage to a site that employed generations of citizens.