Recognizing Distinguished Service to the States
The Council of State Governments Distinguished Service to the States Award, the Council’s
highest honor, is awarded to outstanding individuals and organizations who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to advancing excellence in state government.
The Council of State Governments, founded in 1933, is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization of all elected and appointed state and territorial leaders. CSG is dedicated to the mission of enhancing public policy by connecting, informing and empowering state leaders. This mission is realized through a strong regional structure, the involvement of leaders from all three branches of state government, and a valued network of affiliated organizations, partners and private sector associates.
The award recipient is presented with a gold medallion featuring a red, white and blue shield, representing our nation, comprised of four stripes, representing the four CSG regions (East, South, Midwest and West) and three stars, representing the three branches of state government.
CSG is proud to recognize with this award those whose distinguished service has made a meaningful and lasting contribution to the community of states.
Texas Rep. Jerry Madden
Has represented District 67 since 2003; in his 10th and final term
Chairman of the House Committee on Corrections
Member of Redistricting Committee and Judiciary and
Civil Jurisprudence Committee
Member of CSG Justice Center Board of Directors
With his extensive knowledge of criminal justice best practices and able negotiating skills, Madden has developed and passed key probation and parole reform policies. He also has improved public safety by increasing access to drug and alcohol treatment, expanding opportunities to successfully reintegrate offenders back into their communities through such means as transitional housing, and has participated in ongoing efforts to fix the state’s juvenile justice system.
As a champion behind a process and legislation that would later become known as Justice Reinvestment, he helped blaze a trail for a project that would go on to change the face of criminal justice policy throughout the country and save states billions of dollars over time. Madden has helped the CSG Justice Center refine its purpose and programs in a way that few others could.
“I can divide my career in the Texas legislature into three segments. In our first years, we did major election reform in general election laws. I primarily focused on improving opportunities for military voters and helped pass Texas’ landmark judicial campaign finance law. I helped develop the Texas Virtual School Network, helped pass Ashley’s laws, setting up a sex offender registration program in Texas and secured funding for the Nurse Family Partnership in Texas. And in recent years as chairman of the House Committee on Corrections, I worked in a bipartisan manner with Sen. John Whitmire and others to implement our highly successful criminal justice reforms in Texas.”
H.C. "Pete" Poynter Jr.
Retired from AT&T Services Inc. in August after 37 years
Member of CSG’s 21st Century Foundation, National Conference Committee and the IGA Committee until his retirement
Poynter represented AT&T in regional and national meetings of state government officials where he advocated regulatory and tax reform. He had responsibility for policy initiatives before the National Governors Association, the Southern Governors Association, The Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the American Legislative Exchange Council and other political groups.
A strong advocate for ethics and responsible government, he was one of the founders of NCSL's Center for Ethics in Government. That center is one of his proudest professional accomplishments. Poynter chaired the American Advocacy Project, a collaboration among CSG, NCSL, ALEC, State Legislative Leaders Foundation, Governors' Policy Advisors, American League of Lobbyists and other interested parties. Representatives met to address the issue of the public's lack of confidence in government and several ethics scandals across the country. The discussions resulted in the creation of the Center for Ethics in Government, located on NCSL's campus in Denver.
“The Center, led by Peggy Kerns—former minority leader in the Colorado House and member of the Clinton administration's Education Department, is now able to address in an impartial manner the impact of ethics laws, lobbying rules and the role of leadership to prevent or minimize scandals within the system of government,” Poynter said.
Kansas Senate President Stephen R. Morris
Has represented 39th District since 1993
Chair of the Organization, Calendar and Rules Committee; member of Interstate Cooperation, Federal and State Affairs, and Agriculture committees; as well as the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits
Member of CSG’s 21st Century Foundation and CSG Governing Board; 1993 Toll Fellow
Past president of the National Conference of State Legislatures
Morris’ Senate district is home to a large natural gas field with some oil. The state established a severance tax in the early 1980s to capture revenues from that field and other mineral deposits in Kansas. Although the Hugoton field is still viable, it has been depleted. Morris authored a bill to place a portion of that severance tax into a trust fund for the county in which the tax is generated. The money is intended to help with the transition from a relative high valuation after the minerals are fully depleted. Morris ranks that and an engineering initiative among his greatest accomplishments in the legislature.
He sponsored an engineering initiative because a number of technical, high-paying Kansas jobs were not being filled by Kansas graduates.
“Job offers were going to people from the East and West coasts who, after working here a few years, moved on,” he said. “My thought was if we could increase the number of our Kansas students pursuing engineering and science degrees, a greater number of Kansans would fill these good-paying jobs.”
While Kansas schools were doing a good job of training engineering students, the state didn’t have enough of them. “With the assistance and counsel of the three engineering deans at our state’s top research universities—Kansas State, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University—we focused on a 10-year plan that would not only expand engineering graduates, but also place a greater emphasis on science and technology in K–12 schools,” he said.
Texas Sen. Jeff Wentworth
Has represented District 25 since 1992; in his seventh term
Chairs the Senate Select Committee on Open Government, and serves on the Select Committee on Redistricting; Higher Education; Administration; Transportation and Homeland Security; and Intergovernmental Relations committees
Chair of CSG’s 21st Century Foundation; member of CSG Executive Committee and Governing Board; 1998 Toll Fellow
Of the 19 Republican members of the Texas Senate, Wentworth ranks third in seniority. A fourth-generation Texan, he was first elected to the Texas Senate in 1992 after serving nearly five years in the Texas House of Representatives and nearly six years as a Bexar County Commissioner.
Throughout his public service, Wentworth has been a champion of open government.
In his mind, his greatest accomplishment has been helping young Texans with higher education. The state had a program—the Texas Tuition Assistance grant program—to help young people with the cost of higher education when Wentworth joined the Senate 20 years ago.
“But it wasn't helping anybody, because the legislature had never appropriated any money to fund the program,” he said.
He was inspired by a speech about a similar program in Louisiana that had been funded to try to accomplish the same goal in the Lone Star State.
“It took three regular legislative sessions over a period of six years, a lot of persuading, and bipartisan cooperation with Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Henry Cuellar, but we managed to restructure and then fund the TEXAS—Toward EXcellence, Access and Success—grant program,” he said.
Today more than 350,000 Texas students have received more than $2.3 billion in tuition and required fees. A recent San Antonio Express-News editorial praised it as “one of the most important moves lawmakers have made in recent decades.”
North Dakota Sen. Dave Nething
Has represented District 12 since 1966
Member of Judiciary and Transportation committees
Member of CSG’s Executive Committee and Governing Board
Past president of National Conference of State Legislatures, National Republican Legislators Association and Foundation for State Legislatures; past chair and executive committee member of the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education; Uniform Law Commissioner.
Nething has a long tenure in the North Dakota Senate. Less than a decade after his first election, he was selected to serve as Senate leader, from 1974 to 1986, and as president pro-tem in 1997–98.
His most rewarding service in the Senate has been in enacting appropriate laws to permit development of the state’s natural resources.
“These laws involved protection of the environment, setting appropriate tax levels and providing a regulatory framework, which would be fair to both the energy industry and our North Dakota citizens,” he said. “Such legislation continues to be a work in progress, but overall has led to an expanded economy beneficial to our workforce and our state's financial resources.”