Article City Forum Eva Spiegel

Showcase Your City’s Work: Helen Putnam Award for Excellence Program

Eva Spiegel is director of communications for the League and can be reached at

Learning from each other is an important part of the work cities do together through the League. One way city officials share helpful information is through the Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program, which highlights the best of cities’ innovative programs. Award-winning cities receive recognition at the League of California Cities Annual Conference, and their inspiring projects are featured throughout the year in Western City.

About the Award Program

The League board of directors established the Helen Putnam Award for Excellence in 1982 in memory of former Petaluma Mayor Helen Putnam (pictured at left), who also served as the League’s first female president from 1976–77. During the program’s 30-plus years, hundreds of award-winning projects have served as models and have been adapted by other communities.

Sponsored by the League Partners, the Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program recognizes cities’ efforts to creatively address local challenges. Winning entries demonstrate innovation, resourcefulness, efficiency and enhanced public trust and support. Entries are judged by a volunteer jury of city officials.

The judging criteria include:

  • The impact of the problem and/or challenge, and how well it is outlined;
  • The innovativeness of the solution; and
  • The quality of the results achieved.

Any League member city, or group of California cities, including League Divisions, that provides a program or service with proven tangible and measurable results and a minimum of one year of implementation is eligible to apply.

Please note: The program has added a new category, Economic Development Through the Arts.

Award Categories

  1. Cities, Counties and Schools (CCS) Partnership Intergovernmental Collaboration Award;
  2. Community Services and Economic Development;
  3. Economic Development Through the Arts (new this year);
  4. Enhancing Public Trust, Ethics and Community Involvement;
  5. Health and Wellness Programs;
  6. Housing Programs and Innovations;
  7. Internal Administration;
  8. League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations;
  9. Planning and Environmental Quality;
  10. Public Safety;
  11. Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation; and
  12. Ruth Vreeland Award for Engaging Youth in City Government.

In addition, each year the President’s Advocacy Award honors a person or program that best advocates for one of the League’s annual strategic goals.

Don’t Miss the April Deadline

This year’s Helen Putnam Award entries are due no later than Thursday, April 11, 2013. For more information and an online application, visit

This article appears in the March 2013 issue of Western City
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