League of California Cities

Helen Putnam Awards

Volunteer Judges Needed to Review the
2021 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence Applications


To help select the 2021 Helen Putnam Award winning cities we are asking for volunteer assistance from city officials to serve on the award selection juries. 

We are seeking approximately 60 volunteers to serve on the various juries. Sign up here by Friday, May 7th!

You will receive log-in information after we have confirmed your participation.

Thank you for your assistance with this project. It is very important to recognize, celebrate and learn from the successes of other cities. The Helen Putnam Awards process is a valuable and respected way of doing this, and our dedicated volunteer juries are vital to the success of this program that brings positive attention to all cities.

If you know your city has applied under a certain category please do not volunteer for that category.
Please contact Melissa Tualla with any questions. 

Congratulations to the 2020 Helen Putnam
Award for Excellence Winners!

CCS Partnership Intergovernmental Collaboration Award
Moreno Valley 
Program Title: City of Moreno Valley Expanded Learning Program

The City of Moreno Valley’s partnership with Think Together, Inc., Moreno Valley Unified and Val Verde Unified School Districts has grown to serve over 4,000 students in the afterschool expanded learning program. It provides a fun, safe environment to support students academically and broaden their horizons through enrichment activities; all geared toward preparing them for college and career, and creating successful adults.

Community Services and Economic Development

Program Title: Glendale Ecosystem for Tech Start-Ups (GETS)

Brief Description of the Program: The City of Glendale is committed to supporting and growing business enterprises that improve our community’s economy. Since the adoption of the Glendale Tech Strategy in January 2017, the City has implemented and facilitated a variety of efforts focused on promoting an ecosystem of innovation for the local start-up community.

Economic Development through the Arts

Program Title: Light the Way: A Bike Safety Musical

Light the Way: A Bike Safety Musical // In 2018, Bike City Theatre Company (BCTC) was commissioned by the City of Davis to create an original piece of theatre for young audiences to promote biking and bicycle safety. A team of young talented theatre professionals wrote a new musical incorporating original songs in a memorable and engaging way for Davis students. One year later, BCTC has been contracted to present their work in nearby county schools and has developed a sustainable means of supporting other innovative work of their company. Bike City Theatre Company was chosen as a partner because they showed promise as an emerging local theatre company, and the City leveraged our Federal Safe Routes to School grant funding to create this unique educational work. The goal was to enable BCTC to develop a marketable production that would increase their capacity as a local small business and arts organization, and provide an incentive for young creative talent to choose to live and work in Davis; ultimately feeding funds back into our own economy while providing an innovative way to promote public health and safety in the community. The project directly supports the League’s 2020 strategic priority #4, creatively addressing environmental threats, while supporting climate change adaptation in our transportation modes, and “lighting the way” toward sustainability—both environmental and economic—in our city.

Enhancing Public Trust, Ethics, & Community Involvement

Program Title: Alisal Vibrancy Plan

Unanimously accepted by City Council in November of 2019, the Alisal Vibrancy Plan (AVP) is the result of years of visioning, community organizing, and relationship building between the City of Salinas and its Alisal neighborhoods. Created with equity at its core, it is an action-oriented, community-driven plan to alleviate and reverse decades of neglect and underinvestment, and it is an opportunity to improve the quality of life for residents by building upon the social and cultural wealth of the Alisal. Its collaborative process between City staff, community-based organizations, and residents increased community involvement, public dialogue, and trust, and brought new leaders into planning processes. The AVP has become the model for future engagement in Salinas, and in other communities that want to enhance involvement by embracing resident empowerment and committing to removing participatory barriers for all stakeholders.

Health and Wellness Programs

Program Title: The We Have Project

"The We Have Project" was organized and developed by a team of front-line Norwalk employees that recognized a need to provide local teenagers with positive mentorship and resources. There had been a steady incline in the number of teens confiding in them with struggles related to bullying, mental health issues and more, and, after losing a past visitor of the Teen Center to suicide, staff decided that immediate action needed to be taken. A video was created that offered support, a forum for dealing with issues and professional resources for Norwalk youth battling internal struggles every day.


Housing Programs and Innovations
Program Title: Courson Arts Colony

The Courson Arts Colony is a newly developed affordable housing community located in the civic center area of the City. Comprised of 160 units of which 60 units are dedicated to house homeless Veterans and also homeless individuals faced with health challenges. The arts theme and component is designed to provide a setting where artists can find affordable housing and also utilize the arts to help others and serve as a healing tool for those who the development includes to assist.

Internal Administration
Santa Clarita
Program Title: City of Santa Clarita College Internship Program

The Silver Tsunami is coming. Experts predict that as many as 40 percent of baby boomers are set to retire from public sector service in the next few years, and they threaten to take their knowledge, experience and commitment with them. The City of Santa Clarita’s College Internship Program represents an innovative solution to succession planning challenges faced by municipal agencies as they look to attract and onboard the next generation of employees. The first and only of its benchmark cities to have such a program, the City of Santa Clarita worked in partnership with local and state-wide professional and academic associations such as the California Internship and Work Experience Association, the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation and university and community college career centers to design a program whose mission is “To provide high-caliber undergraduate and graduate students with meaningful work-based learning opportunities that expand students’ understanding of public service, integrate and diversify the organization and support succession planning efforts.” Interns receive challenging work assignments that allow them to apply classroom learning in a professional environment under the mentorship of a dedicated intern supervisor. 

League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations

Santa Maria
Program Title: The Patch 

The City of Santa Maria’s “The Patch” is a public/private partnership whose purpose is to provide free, hands-on, career-based agricultural production education experiences for high school students. Guidance is provided by public and private employees on City-donated land. Workdays give students an opportunity to meet people, learn skills, leadership, crop production, and ultimately help produce an amazing fall attraction for the community. Sponsors including the City of Santa Maria provide land, equipment and guidance. The Patch provides students the opportunity to participate in community outreach activities. The Patch has attracted over 20,000 visitors, raised $180,000, and awarded $30,000 in scholarships.

Planning & Environmental Quality
Program Title: Alameda's Response to the Existential Threat of Climate Change From Plan to Action

As the San Francisco Bay Areas largest island city Alameda has responded to the existential challenge of the climate crisis by developing adopting and implementing a cutting edge Climate Action and Resiliency Plan. As the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest island city, Alameda faces an existential threat from sea level rise that forces innovation. During a big storm and only 6” of sea level rise, several major access points on and off the island would be blocked. At 66” of sea level rise, the daily high tide would flood many key transportation routes, critical infrastructure, and large swaths of residential, commercial, and industrial areas. At 108”, a sizeable portion of this largely built-out city would be almost completely underwater during daily high tide, and the remainder of Alameda would be reduced to small urban mounds surrounded by flooded streets and homes.

Public Safety
Program Title: CART (Colton-At-Risk-Teens)

The (Colton At Risk Teens)CART Academy was created as a 16 week diversion program for at-risk youth. Studies show that frequent truancy and repeat offenses increase the likelihood that a student will drop out of school. CART provides a supportive environment for students and parents, all with the goal of reducing truancy and eliminating the influence of negative externalities. While the main goal of the program is graduation from high school, CART also aims to teach recruits about making healthy life choices and assist in strengthening family relations. The CART Academy provides classes for the kids as well as having parents participate in parenting classes to help deal with juveniles. For our area, this has proven to be a very positive way to create positive change in the lives of students who are most at-risk.

Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation

Program Title: City of Escondido Graffiti Eradication Program

The City of Escondido’s Graffiti Eradication Program uses cutting edge technology to identify and address graffiti while also maintaining efficient staff workflows and communication to the public. The City of Escondido wanted to take back these areas of the community from the gangs and tagging crews. Graffiti abatement highlights the community’s investment in their city and indicates the degree of pride that both residents and visitors enjoy. The City of Escondido needed an efficient way to deal with the sheer volume of graffiti in a time where most cities have to accomplish more with less. The City turned to technology for the answer.


Ruth Vreeland Award for Engaging Youth in City Government  
Santa Clarita
Program Title: I Found Sammy Clarita
In 2017, the City of Santa Clarita introduced the community to a new City mascot in honor of the City’s 30th Anniversary. Sammy Clarita is a small stuffed horse that is a nod to the area’s rich, western heritage. City staff place Sammy at locations throughout the City as means of introducing our younger residents to City projects, programs, initiatives and events. Staff post photos of Sammy at various locations and share why he is there, and then…the scavenger hunt is on. The person who finds Sammy gets to keep him, as a permanent reminder of what makes Santa Clarita such an amazing City. Sammy has been to Council meetings, ribbon cuttings, festivals, recycling events and the marathon, just to name a few. In 2019, City staff made the most of Sammy Clarita’s popularity by publishing a children’s book titled “Meet Sammy Clarita.” The book was released to all three Public Library branches and a copy was gifted to each third grade classroom in the City. The book introduces young readers to the City through this loveable character. The book shares the history of Santa Clarita, the process of incorporation, what being a City means for residents, City-produced events and much more in a fun, engaging way, complete with custom, hand-drawn illustrations.


Archive of Winners

Who was Helen Putnam?

Helen Putnam was a mother, school teacher, principal, mayor, and county supervisor. But most of all, Helen Putnam was a person who viewed meeting one's potential as the measure of success. Excellence, to Helen Putnam, was shown by someone who did his or her very best. She was as supportive and loving of people who did their best as she was of people who did the best. To the League and to California cities, Helen Putnam defined excellence. The Award for Excellence is given in her memory.

Please contact Melissa Tualla with any questions at (916) 658-8216.

© League of California Cities