Featured OpenGov Champions

The Champions

  • Randy Dryer


    Randy’s dedication to instill passion about government transparency in young people makes him a true OpenGov Champion. Randy serves as a faculty adviser for the Utah Transparency Project, a student-run think-tank that discusses privacy and transparency related issues. As a University of Utah Presidential Honors Professor and lecturer at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, Randy also teaches the Honors Think Tank on Transparency and Policy course. To learn more about Randy’s work read his guest Sunlight blog post, or follow him on Twitter. Way to go, Randy!

  • Beth Sebian


    Beth reached out to Sunlight in January 2011, following a change in her county’s administration. New officials came to power in Cuyahoga County, Ohio on the promise that they would be more transparent than those who came before them — which wouldn’t be too hard. Previously, the County was besieged with headlines about politicians and civic leaders flouting public meetings laws, trading favors for contracts, taking bribes, and skewing audits. Citizens demanded change, and though newly elected officials said they would give it to them, Beth wanted to make sure they followed through.

    In early 2011, Beth reached out to Sunlight’s Organizing team and eventually founded the Transparency Action Plan (TAP) Summit. Inspired by Sunlight-grantee, CityCamp (which took its inspiration in turn from our own TransparencyCamp), the TAP Summit convened in July, 2011, bringing together representatives from every major public sector to discuss best practices in transparency, set actionable goals for the County, and create working groups and other support structures for seeing that these goals are reached. Beth’s efforts were embraced by country officials, including County Executive Ed Fitzgerald, who gave one of the keynote speakers at the Summit, and the County’s new CIO, Jeff Mowry, who plans to continue to work with the civic hackers he met at the TAP event. For more information about TAP and to check in on its continued progress in Ohio visit http://TAPSummit.org.

  • Mark Headd


    Mark is a journalist with Technically Philly and a developer at Voxeo Labs, where he helps build open government apps. In addition to being a skilled developer and programmer, he is a go-getter for organizing events and starting conversations to fuel the Open Gov movement. Mark’s early years in open government began with civic hacking and app contests, such as DC’s “Apps for Democracy” and Sunlight’s “Apps for America.” According to Mark, he spends most of his time “helping governments think about how to leverage open data to provide better service and enhance transparency.” He continues to promote civic hacking and entrepreneurship through his project, Civic Innovations, and recently shared his experience and expertise as a speaker at SXSW.

  • Jerry Couey and Alan Isaacson


    Jerry and Alan are both residents of Santa Rosa county, Florida and have fought tirelessly for 5 years to force TEAM Santa Rosa, a publicly-funded economic development organization, into compliance with Florida’s open government laws. They successfully lobbied their state attorney to investigate the TEAM’s sunshine violations and have brought a significant amount of public attention to the issue. Read more about how they made this happen here.

    Individually, Jerry’s technology skills spurred changes in email and social networking policies in both Santa Rosa county and Escambia county which in the past had prohibited use of private email and social networking sites for public business. He has also been instrumental in advocating for citizens’ first Amendment rights and was recognized by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors for this role. Get inspired by his story after reading about the award.

    Alan volunteered with the Santa Rosa county to streamline requests for public records emails after discovering inconsistencies and back door politics aimed at benefiting specific Political Action Committees in the county. Now he serves as adviser to county boards that are not fully aware of the state’s open government laws. Asked if he would do everything over again Alan says: “I would, but not because I would want to but because in my opinion someone has to. I appreciate the efforts of citizens who will take on the establishment, endure the name calling and in the end, change the process to ensure more open government.”

  • Chase Southard


    Although Chase Southard from Lexington, Kentucky makes his living as a biologist, he got turned on to the idea of “civic hacking” after hearing Sunlighter Luigi Montanez’s talk on the subject at a Rails conference in 2008. Inspired by what could be done when developers turned their attention to government data and open source tools, Chase began to find sympathizers and converts in his community. Soon after, he helped found OpenLexington, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that uses technology to promote government transparency and empower citizens through data. OpenLexington has become a hub for the Lexington community, expanding the network of civic-minded technologists, providing consultation and support for local government, and creating educational resources for the less technically inclined. OpenLexington is currently involved in a project with Lexington’s city government to open its data and develop a platform that all citizens can use to access that information. For more information about OpenLexington and to keep up with their efforts, check out: http://openlexington.org.

  • Adam Friedman and Shauna Gordon-McKeon


    Adam and Shauna are two of the organizers of OpenGov Boston, a fledgling local Sunlight meetup. Less than a year old, OpenGov Boston is already hosting regular meetups with a diverse set of activists and civic hackers, and plan to meet with the staff of the Massachusetts legislature to discuss ways to increase transparency in their state government. We asked Adam and Shauna what inspired them to get involved.


    “I’ve worked as a full-time web developer for the last five years, and on the side I’ve always volunteered as an election/good government reformer. Sunlight Foundation has provided a first-class model for how to bring those two strands together to create beautiful, compelling public information products that I envision as merely the first prototypes of the new infrastructure of democracy. Let’s keep building and advocating together until public=online becomes government’s institutional guarantee.”


    “Open government and transparency issues permeate politics and civic life – after all, how can we change our society for the better without knowing what needs changing? And new technology makes this an especially exciting time to get involved, because there are so many different ways to open government up from the local to the national level. Who wouldn’t feel compelled to get involved?”

    Of course, we couldn’t agree more! So, if you or someone you know is inspired to get involved, here’s how: Join a meetup near you or create your own at http://www.meetup.com/SunlightFoundation and take the first step to becoming an OpenGov Champion.

  • Team "Open It Up"

    North Carolina

    Team “Open It Up” formed at CityCamp Raleigh, a Sunlight-sponsored event in the capital city of North Carolina. On the third and final day of the local government-focused “unconference,” attendees broke into eight small groups, each trying to solve a civic problem before the day was done. Team “Open It Up” decided to take on public school data that could only be accessed through a poor, static website or on a $10 CD in a Microsoft Access database, which is difficult to use and requires expensive software to view. Each team member donated a few dollars, got the CD, and went to work. In just hours, they converted it to an open data format, put it online and created a companion website. That earned the six teammates — Hope Ethington, Kevin Flannagan, Jason Horne, Bryan LeClaire, Kelly Reid and Carlos Santana — a $5,000 prize awarded for creating the best project of the day.

    But Team Open It Up didn’t stop there. Several teammates went on to give a presentation to the Raleigh City Council about their work and the value of open data. (You can see video of it here.) And they’ve continued working to make the data more user-friendly and improve their website at http://ncopendata.org.

  • Stephen Jackson


    By day, Stephen is a consultant with an IT firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. By night, Stephen runs http://OpenBama.org, an independent, volunteer-driven website that compiles data on the Alabama legislature from multiple sources to create a single, easy-to-use platform where the public can track and research state legislation. The project began back in 2008 when Stephen tried tracking state legislation on his own, using the Alabama Legislative Information System Online (ALISON). To his frustration, Stephen found that this supposedly “open” site was incomprehensible to the public and nearly unusable, so he decided to do something about it. Stephen began to scrape the data from ALISON and place it into a new platform: OpenBama.org. He thought he was alone in this solution until he happened to come across Sunlight’s Open States Project in 2010. In April, 2011, he attended TransparencyCamp 2011 as the recipient of one of our travel scholarships and connected his efforts with others in the civic hacker community. Now, armed with everything he’s learned from Sunlight and the connections he made at TransparencyCamp, he’s continued his work Alabama and started conversations with members of his state legislature about reforming ALISON and the future of open data in Alabama.

  • Jennifer Peebles


    Jennifer Peebles is Deputy Editor at Texas Watchdog, a nonprofit online news site based in Houston. Jennifer hosts their podcast on government transparency and frequently convenes a monthly webinar on using open government laws. Before joining Texas Watchdog, Jennifer served as the Government Editor of The Tennessean, leading a team that uncovered a rash of sexual harassment cases in Tennessee state government, prompting state leaders to change the way harassment cases are reported. She also oversaw an investigation into the Tennessee Highway Patrol that unearthed deep-seated cronyism and a scheme in which troopers were promoted after making campaign contributions to connected politicians. Sunlight first featured Jennifer in our weekly blogger round-up in the fall of 2010 for her critique of public officials who use transparency as a weapon towards their opponents yet fail to be transparent themselves. Since then, she’s been a great resource for us and other local bloggers on state-level transparency, and was very helpful in helping to promote our open letter to the nation’s governors to stop the rollback of transparency laws.

  • Wendy Norris


    One of our earliest efforts in state-level work was the Statelight initiative — a series on best practices in organizing for state level government transparency and openness. Since watchdog bloggers have been doing this work for years, we celebrated this tradition — and keys to successfully harnessing the watchdog in you — by highlighting Colorado blogger, Wendy Norris. Norris was a 2010 – 2011 Knight Fellow at Stanford University and the founding editor and publisher of Western Citizen, a blog that covers politics and culture in the Rocky Mountains. Wendy encourages bloggers to be curious and follow the leads that data provide: “Luck, coupled with the will to ask provocative, unanswered questions about life in your community can set you on some very interesting journeys.” Learn more about how luck and good journalism chops helped Wendy help her community in her guest post on our blog.


Students, teachers, nurses, writers, programmers – These are our OpenGov Champions.

They are ordinary citizens, equipped with the special power we all share in this country: the power to take civic action to make our communities better. These folks are hard at work every day to make our government more accessible, accountable, open and transparent. They write blog posts, petition their elected officials, talk to their neighbors and friends and engage their activist peers in countless public campaigns or individual missions. They all have a shared goal: to make our government more responsible – and responsive – to those they represent. This page is dedicated to their stories. Get to know them and be inspired – after all, we believe that true change happens when people stand up and demand the changes they want to see in their government.

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Do you know an OpenGov Champion or want to be one yourself?

Share your story with us. We’ll post selected stories. And if your story is unusually compelling, you may end up in one of our OpenGov Champions videos. Please submit your story here: