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Celebrating Excellence in Government

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By The L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU
May 8, 2023

On April 11, the Wilder School at Virginia Commonwealth University’s 16th annual Excellence in Virginia Government (EVGA) Awards celebrated Virginians who have made extraordinary contributions to the practice of government and the welfare of our communities.

This year’s winners included:

A Marine Corps veteran, Robb served in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Star. After his military career, Robb earned his Juris Doctorate, was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia and served as Virginia’s 64th governor from 1982 to 1986. During his tenure, the state increased education spending, and the Port of Hampton Roads became the fastest-growing port in the nation. Robb then was elected to the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2001. Following public service, Robb joined the faculty at George Mason University as a distinguished professor of law and public policy and has served as chair of the Board of Visitors at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Founded in 2007, Drive-To-Work advocates for helping people to get their license restored through legal and driver education services. The organization recognizes that losing driving privileges is not necessarily due to poor driving but can be a result of enforcing non driving-related payments. Drive-To-Work successfully advocated to establish a new law, passed in 2019 to prohibit the suspension of a person’s driver’s license due to failure to pay Virginia court fines. As a result, over 525,000 Virginians saw nonpayment of court fees information removed from their driving records, and some had their driving privileges restored.

Girls For A Change has been serving self-identifying Black girls for nearly 20 years, and is one of the first organizations in the country that has centered around Black girls—unapologetically—since its inception. Through GFAC programs, girls create change by engaging in social change projects and, in the process, they learn leadership skills, goal-planning, financial literacy, networking, exposure, community engagement, skill-building and sisterhood building. Through experiential learning and consistent exposure, GFAC ensures girls are ahead of the learning curve, breaking cycles and closing opportunity gaps. Patton’s goal is to give every girl who aspires to get ahead a chance to be seen, heard and celebrated.

John V. Moeser, Ph.D. was a founding member of the Wilder School’s Urban and Regional Studies and Planning program. Following his 2005 retirement as professor emeritus, he was named a senior fellow of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond before retiring once again in 2017. He served on many nonprofit boards and task forces focused on addressing racial disparities and poverty. Moeser also served as chair of Richmond’s Human Relations Commission. He co-authored two books, “The Politics of Annexation: Oligarchic Power in a Southern City” and “The Separate City: Black Communities in the Urban South, 1940-1968.”

The Fairfield Area Library opened with a unique, custom feature, the innovative “Work and Play Stations” which were developed by staff with the library’s design team as a solution to a common problem parents and caregivers experience at the library. The solution was the installation of stations available at some computer areas to allow parents or caregivers to use the computer while their child is safe inside an adjoining playpen-like structure. This is especially helpful for people who use public computers to search for jobs or who need to do homework or research and do not have access to childcare.

When service members with health care experience and training leave the military, their medical experience and credentials are often not accepted in the civilian workforce. In Virginia, MMAC addresses this challenge by recruiting, reviewing and referring MMAC applicants to MMAC partner health care employers throughout the state. Through wide-ranging public and private partnerships, MMAC offers career and educational pathways to military veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses seeking careers and credentialing in Virginia’s health care system.

  • Unsung Heroes Award: Rebecca Gwynn
    Gwynn is the assistant deputy director of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Her accomplishments include championing Virginia’s first wildlife action plan, leading efforts to protect threatened and endangered species and playing a leading role in the development of Virginia’s Watchable Wildlife Program and statewide Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail. She is most celebrated for her leadership of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Seabird Conservation Initiative, a first-of-its-kind seabird colony relocation project resulting in the most successful nesting season in the colony’s history.

“These awards recognize outstanding work at all levels of government in Virginia and honor dedicated public service, innovative approaches and commitment to excellence,” said Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D., dean of the Wilder School.

As we look ahead and continue our own public service work, may we all be inspired by the accomplishments and dedication of this years’ EVGA awardees.

Author: The Wilder School aims to engage, teach and inspire students and leaders to understand and solve challenges in our world; advance research that informs public policy and decision making to improve our communities; and collaborate with communities through innovative partnerships to enhance quality of life.

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