Mary A. Furtado (2011)

Change agent

Position: Assistant Manager, Catawba County, NC

Best known for: Working as a change agent to drive the organization’s culture toward heightened performance accountability and continuous improvement.

Government service: In 2001, Sassi-Furtado became a grant evaluator for Charleston County, SC, which opened her eyes to the possibility of making a career of public service. After grad school, she did a one-year ICMA fellowship with Sarasota County, then was hired as a budget/management analyst. From 2007-2011, she was Sarasota County’s executive director of strategic operations, coordinating strategic planning, measuring program effectiveness, and driving change. She moved to her current position in 2011.

Biggest challenge: Because Sarasota County emphasizes improvement, employees keep a continuous flow of suggestions coming. Mary and her team acted as organizational detectives, investigating problems, diagnosing solutions, and then homing in on the initiatives with the highest potential impact. Mary managed relationships within constantly shifting priorities and kept everyone engaged, even if their project wasn’t the organization’s top priority.

Greatest reward: Personally, having the intellectual freedom to grow, explore, and find new challenges to tackle. Professionally, seeing that citizens have pride in the community, even in tough times.

Why public service: “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m easily bored – the variety drew me in. The ability to work at the system level to affect positive change is what has kept me, and it feels like a good fit. I can’t think of more important work than building strong communities.”