New Hanover County is top in the nation for good governance, innovation and best practices

July 21, 2021

By County Manager, Chris Coudriet

Amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, New Hanover County staff continued serving the community, creating innovative programs and enhancing our services, and recently earned 10 achievement awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo) that highlight some of those successes.

Not only did we receive 10 awards, but one of them was a “Best in Category” award for a process improvement within the Health and Human Services mailroom, where our Office of Strategy worked together with our Health and Human Services staff to increase the efficiency and customer service of the mailroom process.

When we consolidated Social Services and Public Health in 2019 into one Health and Human Services agency, and then moved into the new building together in early 2020, it was important to ensure the consolidated services were integrated and efficient. That’s when the mailroom process was reviewed, and our staff embraced innovation to create a new streamlined process for all incoming and outgoing mail.

The mailroom handles around 1,000 pieces of mail each week and is a vital part of the organization, handling time-sensitive and confidential documents like eligibility notifications, Medicaid or EBT cards, checks, and legal contracts, scanning and logging of information and records management. So if the mailroom is not efficient, other areas of Health and Human Services are hindered, and ultimately we are not serving our customers well.

This award-winning process improvement incorporates one touchpoint for mail instead of many, utilizes a contactless and secure drop box for customer access, and integrates technology for caseworkers to have easy access to logs with returned mail. It has drastically decreased the amount of time it takes for mail to get to its intended location – from three days to around one and half hours (yes, you read that right). It has led to improved mail security, ensured fast and efficient delivery of mail, and improved workflow agency-wide.

So it definitely deserves to be recognized as one of the very best in the nation. Of the 844 total awards NACo gave this year, only 18 won best in category – putting New Hanover County in the top two percent in the nation for good governance, innovation and best practices that are serving the community.

The nine other NACo awards the county received were equally as impressive and were a collaborative effort between multiple county departments with a team of public servants who, together, accomplished incredible work despite the challenges posed from the pandemic.

The awards highlighted the county’s overall COVID-19 response to provide the latest public health guidance, outreach efforts to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for homebound residents and minorities, COVID-19 financial assistance programs for child care, housing and small business grants, the Arboretum and Cooperative Extension’s innovative stormwater management system, resilience training for all employees and a supervisor support initiative for Health and Human Services employees, and the Cape Fear Museum’s virtual, interactive 1898 Story Map. You can see videos of these awards on the county’s YouTube page here.

NACo’s Achievement Awards are chosen by county staff and elected officials from around the country, who have the knowledge and experience to recognize when programs and initiatives are exemplary. New Hanover County has earned 44 of these achievement awards over the past six consecutive years, and that is a testament to the incredible and collective work of our county employees, who make a difference every day.

Over the years I have heard the phrase “it’s good enough for government,” but in New Hanover County that means it must be stellar, it must rely on teamwork, and it must serve the public effectively and well. I think we have successfully raised the bar as a leader in the nation for innovation and best practices.

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