Research Request: What are the Best Managed Counties in America?


As part of your membership benefits, the Alliance staff provide research services for local government member submitted requests. Topics can range from pressing issues to emerging trends. This benefit is made possible through our partnership with Arizona State University Marvins Andrews Fellowship

Request Prompt:

"A list or something akin to that of the best-managed counties in America”

Summary of Findings:

In order to breakdown the request prompt, we examined two different research pathways: 1) citizen surveys ranking satisfaction with county services received, and 2) reporting from more traditional sources that aggregate quantitative data. After reviewing both pathways, our research did not reach a definitive end since these surveys (citizen ranking and others) and benchmarks around Management, service delivery are not compiled in totality and compared.  

Going forward, we recommend the next steps outlined below. And, given the direction from the requestor, the Alliance team would be happy to continue to assist where needed. 

Background Research:

Next Steps 

Two research pathways:  citizen surveys ranking satisfaction with county services received 

  • large number of local county released citizen surveys and citizen satisfaction surveys. There does not seem to be any sort of compilation, comparison, or database of these unique (i.e. non-standardized surveys). 

  • Voice of the People Awards Winners - (VOP) Awards are the only awards given in local government that are based on residents' opinions. 

  • The VOP Award nominees are based on results from The National Citizen Survey (The NCS) - they have the highest or most improved ratings from residents compared to all other participating jurisdictions that year.  Winners are chosen by a panel of judges who review the nominee applications, so the awards are given also based on the best actions that lead to the high resident satisfaction.  The VOP Awards are then presented each year at the annual ICMA conference. 

  •  Unfortunately, the ranking skews towards non-County jurisdictions, though Albemarle County, VA. did win the VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Safety. 

Reporting from more traditional sources that aggregate quantitative data 

NACo -  

  • Plethora of articles on individual cases of county management and county performance measurement systems, including: Building Trust: Performance Metrics in Counties. However, no ranking, ratings, comparison, or compilation. 

  • Awards Achievement Awards which includes a “County Administration and Management” category, “Financial Management and Services” category, and other service and management categories but awards are for programs, not overall county achievement. 

  • *NACo County Explorer is an interactive map featuring the most up-to-date data available for all 3069 counties in 19 categories from over 70 datasets (including 850 indicators). Can compare/benchmark up to 10 counties to each other. No indicator related to management/service deliver/resident satisfaction.  

Searched for ‘Trust in local government’ 

  • September 2016: Random sample of 1,020 adults in all 50 U.S. states and DC found 71% trust local government. Cannot break down to county level 

  • Undated: A Gallup trends report on the trust in government breaks down respondents trust and confidence in local government in their area to handle local problems. Cannot break down to county level. 

  • April 2013: National survey found 57% had a favorable opinion of their local government. Not available at county level. 

Best Counties in America 



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