Maricopa County, Ariz., hired Matthew Bauer as an experiment. Could an inexperienced graduate fresh from Arizona State's supply chain management program succeed as a government procurement officer? The answer was yes—with a vengeance. In fact, when the county procurement supervisor retired two years later, Bauer stepped into that role.
Today, Bauer is procurement administrator for the City of Mesa, Ariz., one of the youngest people in the United States to hold such a role in government. His achievements earned him the Gabe Zimmerman Award for Innovation from the Center for the Future of Arizona, and won his agency at Maricopa County the Innovations in Public Procurement Award for 2013 from the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP). "Through his innovative ideas and ability to drive change, Matthew saved local government more than $10 million," says nominator Steve Dahle.
"When I started at the county, I was the youngest person in the department by about 15 years," Bauer says. He seized the chance to soak up all the knowledge he could from his colleagues, procurement veterans with about 200 years in combined experience.
But Bauer also brought fresh ideas to an organization that had been doing business in the same way for 30 years. "For example, we were able to move into electronic procurement, and implemented a full e-procurement suite," he says. Early on, he also convinced his boss to experiment with the then-controversial idea of using reverse auctions.
In a reverse auction, multiple sellers bid against one another online, ideally driving prices lower. When Bauer first suggested this strategy at Maricopa County, his boss resisted, claiming it wouldn't work in government. But Bauer kept pushing. When the county finally ran a reverse auction for bulk flour, that event drove the price from 38 cents per pound to 20 cents, saving nearly $1 million over the next three years. Bauer has since used reverse auctions for other commodities, and even for unconventional procurements, such as one for employee benefits. His successes have won coverage by Governing and GovPro magazines, ABC, CBS, and other media outlets.
One perk of working in government procurement is the variety of unusual experiences it provides. "I watched autopsies, because I was purchasing gas chromatograph mass spectrometers for the medical examiner," he says. "I went onto Chase Field, the Diamondbacks' baseball stadium, because we did a reroofing project there. I purchased bulletproof vests and helicopters—things you'd never expect to be involved in."
Bauer heads the Young Professionals Committee for the Arizona State Capital Chapter of NIGP. "I like encouraging other young professionals into supply chain jobs, especially in government," he says. He has also chaired the Scholarship Committee for NIGP's national organization. Bauer and his wife like getting out in the Arizona sunshine, going rock climbing, hiking, and playing with their dogs. "And I like to watch sports," he adds. "I'm a big Phoenix Suns fan."
HOMETOWN: Chandler, Arizona
ALMA MATER: Arizona State University
CURRENT POSITION: Procurement Administrator, City of Mesa, Arizona
NOMINATED BY: Steve Dahle, Strategic Procurement Officer, Maricopa County, Arizona
Implementing new ideas, such as using procurement strategies to conduct reverse auctions on employee benefits contracts. It resulted in almost $7 million in savings.
The work I do has a significant impact on the local community. The products and services I acquire allow agencies to conduct operations on behalf of citizens.