“I was really surprised. I have been working in the local government strategy space for a while and to be recognized as an emerging leader in the space by my peers is something that means a lot to me. It was very unexpected,” says Rafael Baptista. While the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) accolade might have caught the Strategy & Innovation Director off guard, Assistant County Manager Sybil Tate says there’s no mystery to it. “I’m not surprised! Rafael is the definition of an emerging leader. I expect great things to come for him,” she says. “He is always willing to lend a hand and get projects to the finish line. His work with the 2025 Strategic Plan has brought our organization together and resulted in valuable conversations that help each department more deeply understand each other’s challenges.”
The ASPA Emerging Leaders Award of Excellence combs through nominations and selects winners based on criteria such as success in implementing performance management systems, innovating new practices, and promoting the importance of performance and accountability. Rafael is one of only three people nationwide who will receive the honor at a conference later this year.
So what does leadership mean to Rafael? “It’s about helping foster a culture where everyone feels engaged and can work together for the best of the organization and our customers. I see my role as helping my team perform at their best and to help coordinate strategies and decisions across the County,” explains Rafael. He says his team’s work on fostering organizational innovation, the County’s Strategic Plan, and departmental collaboration supports his ultimate goal of building and sustaining a culture of strategy and innovation. “If we can do that, we will be able to best serve our community with an incredibly engaged workforce,” notes Rafael. “I am extremely grateful to the Board of Commissioners, County Management, Strategy & Innovation staff, and everyone involved in the County’s 2025 Strategic. It’s a team activity and this award reflects the hard work of everyone involved in our Strategic Plan.”
Congratulations to Rafael on being selected for this prestigious honor. Buncombe County is proud to have you leading its Strategy & Innovation team.