RICHMOND (August 5, 2021)—The Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) announced the 30 recipients of the 2021 Achievement Awards, which recognize excellence in local government programs. VACo received 102 submissions.
Winning entries focused on addressing issues of inclusion, belonging, and reconciliation that challenge counties today.
“I want to thank all who participated in the 19th year of the Achievement Awards,” VACo Executive Director Dean Lynch said. “Our counties face challenges every day, and those challenges are written in these program submissions. What’s also written are the innovative solutions that overcome these obstacles to make life better for communities across the Commonwealth. We celebrate these victories with all who participated.”
Among the recipients of the 2021 Achievement Awards is Arlington County, recognized for its Emergency Communications Center Remote Call-Taking & Dispatch (read full submission).
During the early onset of the pandemic, the Arlington County, VA Emergency Communications Center (ECC) developed comprehensive, innovative solutions to address unprecedented operational challenges as they arose. To ensure the safety of personnel while in the Center, ECC leadership exceeded guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) by immediately instituting precautions. The protective measures adopted by the ECC were some of the first in the region, such as restricted access, specialized equipment to facilitate decontamination, no-contact temperature scanning, etc.
While establishing thorough precautions for those onsite, the ECC challenged traditional operational and infrastructure processes to become one of the first Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to adopt remote call-taking operations in the summer of 2020. Then in January of 2021 , the ECC became one of the first 9-1-1 Centers in the nation to implement capabilities that allow fire and emergency medical services (EMS) dispatchers and supervisors to deliver critical emergency communication services remotely.
Led by Administrator David Mulholland, the ECC pioneered the remote call-taking and dispatching efforts to combat persistent and potential significant staffing shortages during the pandemic. While discussions conceptualizing remote operations had been suggested to address chronic staffing shortages and strengthen the continuity of operations, the plausible and realistic threat of losing an already strained workforce during the pandemic was the catalyst to making remote operations a reality.
Tedd Povar, retired Associate Director of the Virginia Institute of Government; Dr. Sheryl Bailey, Visiting Professor of Practice at Virginia Tech and former Chesterfield County Deputy County Administrator; and Larry Land, retired VACo Director of Policy Development, served as judges for this year’s statewide competitive awards program.
Henrico County and its Equity Ambassadors program won this year’s Best Achievement Award.
The judges also selected a Best Small County Achievement Award (50,000 or less population) and a Best Large County Achievement Award. Nelson County and its Blue Ridge Tunnel Rehabilitation and Trail Project program captured the Best Small County Achievement Award while Chesterfield County and its Innovation Bootcamp program earned the Best Large County Achievement Award.
The VACo Achievement Awards is a competitive program open to local government members of the association.