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Surprise: Some great public servants are actually members of Congress

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Rep. Lucy McBath is the first lawmaker from Georgia to win a Democracy Awarrd.

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

TheCongressional Management Foundation today announced the winners of the seventh annual Democracy Awards, CMF’s program recognizing non-legislative achievement and performance in congressional offices and by members of Congress. Two members of Congress, one Democrat and one Republican, are recognized in four categories related to their work in Congress.

Americans usually only hear about Congress when something goes wrong. The Democracy Awards shines a light on Congress when it does something right. These members of Congress and their staff deserve recognition for their work to improve accountability in government, modernize their work environments and serve their constituents.

In the Constituent Service category, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) was recognized for mandating a 24-hour response time to constituent requests for assistance. The office has separate intake and casework manuals and utilizes a shared intake drive that is checked by five staff members throughout the day to expedite processing. The Democratic winner, Rep. Lucy McBath, the first member of Congress from Georgia to win an award, was cited for having a “living casework intake guide” that’s altered quarterly as federal agency processes change and constituent needs fluctuate. The guide includes every step of creating a new case and all questions that need to be asked at intake for each agency with which the office interacts.

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Bilirakis also won in the Constituent Accountability and Accessibility category. CMF staff noted the congressman’s vote record is displayed on his website and the rationale for each vote is explained in his weekly newsletter. Also, Bilirakis held approximately 100 in-person or tele-town hall meetings in 2023. The Democrat winner, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), was recognized for offering diverse language options for constituents to understand services available, and providing child care services at town hall meetings so single parents can attend.

The Republican winner for the Workplace Environment category (known as the “Life in Congress” award), Rep. Don Bacon (Neb.), was cited for his creative workplace policies, including offering a flexible telework policy, compensatory time off, and three office- sanctioned fitness breaks per week. The Bacon office also has the lowest staff turnover in the Nebraska delegation. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), the Democratic winner, was noted for a year-long staff mentorship program, which includes matching senior staff with new hires for confidential advice and guidance as well as providing formal training and monthly group check-ins.

For the fourth category, Innovation and Modernization, Rep. Don Davis (N.C.) was the Democratic winner and the only first-term member of Congress to win an award. Davis’ office has increased feedback from meeting with constituents by offering participants a QR code to link directly to feedback forms. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), the Republican winner, was noted for a novel Senior Fellows Program designed to meet the specific needs of older adults. This program offers a specially tailored orientation and extensive training to accommodate two longer service, six-month terms per year.

The process for selecting the winners was conducted over a six-month period in 2024. House and Senate personal offices self-nominated in early 2024 using an online questionnaire. CMF then followed up with offices to conduct interviews and assess each office's adherence to the established criteria, using a detailed checklist to determine a list of finalists who would advance to the selection committee phase. In June, the committee, composed of former congressional staffers and former members of Congress, selected two winners (one Democrat and one Republican) for each category using the nomination forms, interview notes and supporting material provided by the office.

The founding partner for the Democracy Awards is the Bridge Alliance, which provided a generous grant to launch the program. Bridge Alliance is a diverse coalition of more than 90 organizations committed to revitalizing democratic practice in America. (The Bridge Alliance publishes The Fulcrum.)

The ceremony honoring all finalists and winners will be held on Sept 26.

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