Gardner Institute honors community leaders with “Informed Decision Maker of the Year” Award

Award recognizes individuals and entities that work to help community prosper

Each year, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute recognizes individuals and entities that work, often behind the scenes and with little fanfare, to help our community prosper. We call them “Informed Decision Makers” and select them based on criteria consistent with the Institute’s committable core values: Responsibility to the community; Research integrity and relevance; accountability; collaboration; and positivity and passion.

“The Gardner Institute is pleased to honor five outstanding individuals and organizations who exemplify a genuine commitment to their community through their work,” said Gardner Institute director Natalie Gochnour. “These honorees embody the values that define who we are, how we conduct ourselves, and what comprises our work culture at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. We applaud their work ethic, values, and dedication.”

The following individuals and organizations have been awarded the 2023 “Informed Decision Maker of the Year” Award:

Erin Litvack – Erin Litvack has served the people of Salt Lake County for more than 15 years, first as the Director of Community Services before being promoted to Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer in 2017. In addition, she serves her community through numerous organizations and initiatives, including the boards of the Unified Police Department, Visit Salt Lake, Downtown Alliance, Shelter the Homeless, and the Housing Authority of Salt Lake County. Ms. Litvack has a sterling reputation as a hard-working, empathetic, and a dedicated public servant.

Switchpoint Community Services – Founded in 2014, Switchpoint provides temporary shelter and support for people experiencing homelessness in Washington County. Their guiding vision states that every individual embodies their worth and value with self-esteem, hope, and abilities restored. As a result of their efforts, more than 9,200 people have been sheltered or received services. In addition to their housing services, Switchpoint provides access to job-training programs, food pantries, daycare for pets, 24/7 childcare facilities, and community soup kitchens that provide free hot meals to those in need.

Heidi Walker – Heidi Walker serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah’s largest and statewide business association. She began working with the Chamber in 1998 as the director of business development and now has operational responsibility for finances, strategic planning, public policy, communications, and events and programs. Known for her strong work ethic and collaborative skills, Heidi helps to guide other local organizations through service on the boards of the United Way, Women’s Leadership Institute, Utah State Chamber, Envision Utah, Utah Foundation and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Comunidades Unidas – Comunidades Unidas is dedicated to building the social and political power of people who identify as Latinx immigrants living in Utah. The organization connects individuals with the social service programs they need to succeed and the tools necessary to lift up their communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Comunidades Unidas connected thousands of individuals to critical resources and aided in the administration of over 4,000 COVID-19 vaccinations with the support of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Friends of Great Salt Lake – The mission of Friends of Great Salt Lake is to preserve and protect the Great Salt Lake ecosystem and increase public awareness and appreciation of the Lake through education, research, advocacy, and the arts. Water levels at Great Salt Lake are in decline – hitting the lowest elevation in 2022. This threatens economic activity, a globally important ecosystem, local public health, and essential contributions to the state’s water cycle. The work of Friends of Great Salt Lake is more important than ever.

“We wanted to recognize the amazing unsung heroes in our state who embody the values of the Gardner Institute,” said Chris Redgrave, Gardner Institute Senior Advisor and Chair of the Informed Decision Maker Award committee. “Every year we identify five remarkable leaders and organizations with the Informed Decision Maker of the Year Award who make important contributions to our state.”