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Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, State of Utah - Lifetime Achievement

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Company: Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, State of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Entry Submitted By: BIG YAM, The Parsons Agency
Company Description: Kristen Cox is an award-winning public servant, speaker and author in Salt Lake City Utah. The first thing most people notice about her is the long cane she uses to move freely, but as she interacts with others and navigates her surroundings with confidence you soon forget she is blind. Cox is the current executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.
Nomination Category: Individual Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Lifetime Achievement – Government or Non-Profit

Nomination Title: Kristen Cox, Executive Director

Describe for the judges the nominated individual's lifetime of accomplishments (up to 525 words):

Kristen Cox is the current executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) for the state of Utah and a longtime public servant…but she isn’t afraid to say that government processes are broken. Utilizing the Theory of Constraints (TOC), Cox has made strides in improving the operational performance of Utah’s government, saving taxpayers millions of dollars while also improving quality of service and absorbing increased demand. In doing so, she has established herself as an expert in her field, and now consults with other state agencies who want to follow suit.

At the GOMB, Cox developed Utah’s SUCCESS Framework, a management approach that has led the charge on helping all cabinet agencies – with nearly 140 major systems from child welfare to business permitting – improve measured quality and meet increased needs for government services without corresponding increases in expenditures. Under her leadership, agencies have improved measures by 27 percent and avoided costs in excess of $230 million since January 2013.

Prior to joining the GOMB, Cox served as the executive director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) where her tenure included the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009. In 2010, DWS caseloads for services to people in poverty (Food Stamps, Medicaid, Financial Assistance, etc.), claims for unemployment benefits and demand for job seeker services had increased dramatically. Her approach was to make faster eligibility determinations for these vulnerable populations.

It never occurred to Cox to seek additional funding to meet increased workloads. Rather, she examined the potential for hidden capacity within each function and restructured the eligibility services operation, saving more than $20 million while making significant improvements to quality through speed and accuracy – in some cases, wait times for approval on services like food stamps was reduced to just two days versus the prior 23-day waiting period. By introducing private-sector business process improvement tools to DWS, Cox led the agency to save an additional $30 million in administrative costs. These were not avoided costs, Cox returned hard money to the legislature at a time of extraordinary growth in demand for public services.

She has also worked as the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, was appointed to a position with the Department of Education by President George W. Bush and held numerous positions with the National Federation of the Blind.

Cox has been recognized for her work, winning numerous awards, including Salt Lake Chamber 2018 Pathfinder Award, Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year (2016), Utah Community Foundation as an Enlightened 50 (2016), Utah Business Magazine as one of the 30 Women to Watch (2012) and Days of 47's Pioneers of Progress Award for Business and Enterprise (2012).

Cox recently launched her first book, “Stop Decorating the Fish.” Written with fellow TOC expert and business consultant Yishai Ashlag to illustrate the ineffective problem-solving strategies often utilized in government and business. Cox is passionate about changing the way leaders solve problems and this book is the latest step in bringing that change to the masses. As a passion project, all proceeds from the book benefit the National Federation of the Blind.

Provide a brief biography of the nominated individual (up to 125 words):

Kristen Cox is an award-winning public servant, speaker and author in Salt Lake City, Utah. The first thing most people notice about her is the long cane she uses to move freely, but as she interacts with others and navigates her surroundings with confidence you soon forget she is blind. In her personal and professional life, there are three things she is particularly passionate about:

  1. Adventure, including hiking and skiing.
  2. Advocating for people who don’t have a voice.
  3. Helping government agencies effectively solve problems to achieve massive and measurable results.

The latter seems to be the least exciting of the three, but it reflects her mission to fix broken government processes and get measurable results for the people and taxpayers they serve.