Austin Chief Information Officer Chris Stewart announced Sunday he’s taking on a new position as an executive adviser to other city officials, a move that comes as part of a sweeping reorganization of the Texas capital’s management structure.
Stewart’s new role is expected to last about six months, after which he intends to retire after more than two decades in Austin’s city government.
In a LinkedIn post, Stewart said he’ll move into this new role while Kerrica Laake, his deputy since October 2021, serves as interim CIO. Additionally, Austin Chief Information Security Officer Shirley Erp’s office will be moved into the city’s Communications and Technology Management department, instead of continuing as a separate information security office.
The moves are part of a broader shake-up across city government announced March 24 by Interim City Manager Jesus Garza, who also appointed several new agency heads and took on more direct oversight of Austin’s finances. Garza, who previously served as city manager in the 1990s, was put back in that role in February when the Austin City Council fired City Manager Spencer Cronk over a slow response to an ice storm that left hundreds of thousands of residents without power for up to two weeks.
Stewart has worked for the City of Austin since 2000. He was named CIO in September 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, working with an operation that had gone completely remote. He told StateScoop in 2021 that he would focus heavily on building out the city’s digital services capabilities.
In an email Monday morning, Stewart said he had been planning on retiring from public service soon, but agreed to stay on as an adviser for six months to assist Laake as she moves into the CIO job, and as the IT and information security offices are merged.
“I’m also helping with transition needs, change management support, and citywide corporate IT initiatives that can help make us a more efficient and effective organization,” he told StateScoop. “After 27 years of public service (23 with the City of Austin), my plan was to retire, but I’m excited to hang around a while and help the city through these critical changes.”