BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The North Dakota League of Cities has been hosting its annual conference for the past few days, and they’ve now announced their award winners.

KX News has more from the Bismarck Event Center.

Out of the 355 incorporated cities in our state, 307 of them have under a thousand people who live there, which can make it difficult to find support if you’re an elected official.

That’s where the North Dakota League of Cities comes in.

“What we do is we provide education for auditors, elected officials, other appointed officials within the city, to help them do their jobs better,” said Executive Director Matt Gardner. “We help them provide some advocacy and voice at the capitol, help our lawmakers understand what our concerns are in the cities and what challenges they face.”

The annual conference provides educational opportunities for auditors and elected officials, with breakout sessions and leadership training program credits available for auditors.

It also recognizes outstanding individuals and communities throughout the state, with awards such as “city champion,” “lifetime achievement,” and “city of the year.”

The City of the Year award is something that Gardner says is the highest honor.

“City of the year is reserved for that one city in the state that goes above and beyond, maybe they have some important infrastructure projects, or they’re doing things as a community, and that’s not just the city leaders, it’s matching up with community, volunteers, civic leadership, and I’m pretty excited about that award this year,” remarked Gardner.

The city of the year is Gilby, North Dakota, a city that lies a half hour northwest of Grand Forks.

There were a few awards given out to some folks who are a little closer to home too.

“This is something that was never expected but absolutely I am so grateful, thank you, thank you,” said Bismarck City Administrator Keith Hunke, who received the lifetime achievement award after dedicating more than four decades of work to the city.

Additionally, the former Bismarck city administrator Bill Wocken received the city champion award for representing the North Dakota League of Cities as a lobbyist in the capitol.

As Hunke says, the key to workplace success is a sense of passion for the work that you do — and this conference continues to spark that passion every year.

Another winner from close to home is New Salem auditor Melissa Davis, with the appointed official award.