Charleston hires former GIS director as first innovation chief

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Charleston, South Carolina Mayor John Tecklenburg has hired Tracy McKee, the city’s former geographic information systems director, as the city’s first chief innovation officer. 

McKee was hired for the new role in November after serving an eight-month stint as Baltimore’s chief data officer. She told StateScoop the decision to leave Baltimore, where she reported to Chief Information Officer Frank Johnson, was a difficult one.

Tracy McKee
Tracy McKee

“However, I think when the mayor contacted me, it just sounded like a really great opportunity to come back home and do something really exciting and fun in what I feel is like my hometown,” McKee said.

From 1999 through January 2018, McKee oversaw Charleston’s GIS division within the Department of Technology, developing tools to monitor tourism, flooding and zoning within the city, among other initiatives.

McKee left Charleston to help Baltimore develop a citywide strategy to optimize its use of data and analytics last February, but she said the role of chief innovation officer is something she and Tecklenburg had discussed as a future possibility before her departure.

As Baltimore’s first CDO, she worked across the city’s agencies and with outside partners like research firm Gartner, Harvard’s Civic Analytics Network and and Johns Hopkins University’s GovEx program to develop a draft plan for the city’s data and analytics usage. She said she expects city agencies to implement this plan soon, after a period of public comment.

“I think working across the organization to get input and feedback from all the agencies on their expectations of what a CDO would do and what they needed, and incorporating all that feedback into one document that the city’s data and analytics strategy. I feel pretty proud of that,” she said.

In Charleston, McKee supports Susan Poteat, the city’s director of process and service improvement who is now implementing the process improvements recommended by the Novak Consulting Group.

The city hired Novak in 2017, and has received four reports from the firm so far with recommendations to improve performance within city government. The first report focuses on the city’s technical review committee, which helps residents get approval for zoning projects and site planning. The 23 recommendations for the committee have been prioritized and scheduled on the city’s website. The other reports were Special Events, Environmental Services & Fleet Management, and a Workforce Profile & Employee Survey.

“This is really an opportunity for me to have an impact here in the place that I consider to be home,” McKee said. “Just in that data and technology space, anything outside of that primary focus is to really work in that grey space of government, particularly on the mayoral priorities, to encourage departments to collaborate together, to be creative, to use data and technology for their decision-making processes.”

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Baltimore, Charleston, chief data officer, Chief Innovation Officer, South Carolina, Tracy McKee
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