David Liebler is the Director of Public Affairs and Member Services for the California State Association of Counties. For more, visit The County Voice.

It’s been another extremely challenging year for California’s 58 counties. The demand for county services is soaring at a time when resources are dwindling. Yet throughout all this, there is a beacon of hope and inspiration: our county family.

Each year, CSAC conducts the Challenge Awards program to recognize California Counties’ most innovative programs – and the people behind them. This year, CSAC received nearly 250 program entries. Many of these innovative programs are highly successful despite the challenges counties are facing.

The name of this awards program has never been more appropriate. The 2010 Challenge Awards exemplifies the amazing spirit and commitment of our counties and the dedicated individuals who provide the vital services that 38 million Californians depend on every day.

County officials, CSAC Corporate Associates and CSAC affiliates had the difficult task of reviewing each entry and selecting the programs that best reflected the key elements of a Challenge Award recipient: innovation, uniqueness and replication.

At the end of the day, 14 programs from 10 counties have been selected to receive Challenge Awards. Two of these programs – from Calaveras and Orange Counties – were chosen by the judging panel to receive top honors, “The California Counties Innovation Award.” To review a brief summary of these two programs, click here. CSAC executive staff will be presenting the Challenge awards at Board of Supervisors meetings this fall. Another 24 county programs will be receiving Merit Awards. A complete list of all award-winning programs can be found here.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients. Despite the ongoing challenges, innovation is alive and well in California counties.

For more, visit The County Voicea place where CSAC, county officials and stakeholders can voice their thoughts on governance and issues that impact California’s 58 counties.