The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections last week was awarded the first Governor’s Sterling Award in the state for that particular office.
The award, considered the most prestigious award for organizations excelling in performance excellence, has never been given to a Supervisor of Elections office.
While Hillsborough SOE Craig Latimer is celebrating the success, he also points out it’s an award that must be solicited — something his office recently chose to do.
The team began prepping for its application in 2014 with the Sterling Challenge. That included a rigorous evaluation of various office practices from leadership to how the agency processes information.
The challenge gave Latimer and his team the ability to identify areas where they could still improve.
“We thought that this would be just an excellent way to demonstrate what we thought we were doing was the right thing,” Latimer said. “We knew that we were using a tremendous amount of data to make decisions and we were able to quantify those decisions and substantiate them.”
The Florida Sterling Council established to determine whether an agency is eligible to receive the coveted award uses seven different criteria – leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, knowledge management, workforce focus, process management and results.
An organization must submit a 50-page application in order to be considered and scored under the criteria.
“This is a rigorous process. It takes a lot of work,” Latimer said, noting that his office was the first Supervisor of Elections office in the state to apply for the award.
According to the Latimer’s office, examiners spent an entire week interviewing employees and observing the office’s day-to-day operations. The group also analyzed operations and compared its processes and results to other organizations within both the public and private sectors.
“We’ve been doing employee surveys, customer surveys, we’re trying to make sure we’re hitting the marks,” Latimer continued.
It’s unclear whether other agencies will follow Latimer’s lead in seeking the award. As the only supervisor in the state to be recognized, Latimer said it establishes Hillsborough County as a role model among other agencies.
“I think also this is one way for us to truly show the others that what we’re doing here is legit and we’ve been tested and we’re true to what we say,” Latimer said.
The award comes as Florida gets ready to usher in online voter registration, something Latimer has long been supportive of.
“Anything we can do to give more access to people to register to vote – anything we can do to encourage and get people to actually vote – that’s our vision,” Latimer said.
Despite his agency’s latest accolade, however, the online voter registration will be implemented at the state level.
The Governor’s Sterling Award was established under former Gov. Lawton Chiles.