Meet the 2021 GoldenGov: City Executive winners

Earlier this month, StateScoop named the winners of the 2021 LocalSmart Awards, a program honoring some of the most innovative and impactful people and projects in local government.

This week, we share brief interviews with the winners of the LocalSmart GoldenGov: City Executive of the Year award winners. Recipients shared details of recent IT work they’re proud of and what’s next for their organizations and communities as the world crawls out from under the pandemic.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for readability.

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Kate Bender, chief analytics officer of Kansas City, Missouri

Kate Bender, chief analytics officer of Kansas City, Missouri

What have you accomplished in your role in the past year that you want people to know about?

Over the last year, we have certainly continued to have to respond to pandemic needs in the city in addition to our regular operations. We also lost several core members of our team last year, so we’ve really had to do this with reduced staff. We’ve also really been honing in on data visualization, especially external-facing publicly available data. We’ve had an open data portal for a long time, but this summer we launched a new homepage in an effort to make that information more navigable. And then we’ve also been gradually building out visualization dashboards to pair with some key data sets.

What projects are you most excited about? 

I’m really excited with the opportunity to expose a lot more of our data to the public, and also to really simultaneously provide access to additional high-value data sets — access to the raw data that’s helpful to researchers and business owners and people used to working with raw data — but also the visualizations that summarize it. I think our focus is on leaning into building automated data sets and automated visualizations so you can really ensure sustainability for all of this, so we’re not building a lot of things that quickly become stale. 

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Collin Boyce, CIO of Tucson, Arizona

Collin Boyce, CIO of Tucson, Arizona

What have you accomplished in your role in the past year that you want people to know about?

My team and I were able to successfully turn an organization that was historically brick-and-mortar-driven to working 100% outside of the office environment without any major hitches or hiccups in that process. We did that through a myriad of process improvements. We brought in process improvement systems, we increased the automation that we had inside of the city and then we came up with innovative tools in order to build a better bridge between the citizens and the city.

How has this past year challenged you?

On a work front, it’s always challenging. You’re seeing your employees go through really difficult experiences. I’ve had employees who had family members that passed, so we laugh together, we cry together, and it’s been a really difficult year on that front. And then meeting the business needs and trying to manage the mental health of what my employees need has been incredibly challenging. You think of public safety and transportation and fire and EMS, they’re nonstop and they’re going. The demand on us has been extremely hard, and we’ve managed to balance that this year with trying to keep the mental health of the department in our crosshairs while still being able to meet the business needs and allowing us to work remotely.

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Wayne Brannock, information systems manager of Pullman, Washington

Wayne Brannock, information systems manager of Pullman, Washington

What have you accomplished in your role in the past year that you want people to know about?

The ability to pivot quickly and make a remote workforce with COVID-19. It was pretty crazy when things started happening. Myself and our technicians, we scrambled when we were sending people home. I think that’s the biggest thing. It took us a couple of weeks, but we were lucky in the fact that we had some old inventory on the shelf that we hadn’t surplused yet, so we pulled that off the shelf, put it back in service and sent people home for months on end.

What are some of the human lessons you pulled from the past year?

The changing schedules — it was hard for some people to stop working, at times. It was such a blur and there were so many different things, like trying to help people that were remote was very challenging, and having people try to explain to you what problems they have. People get that customer service they’re used to when they’re at their desk and somebody shows up at their desk. When they’re remote, they don’t get that customer service, and it’s hard for us to make them understand that we’re here to help, but sometimes we just can’t.

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David Clow, CIO of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department

David Clow, CIO of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department

What upcoming projects are you most excited about?

We’re moving a lot of things to the cloud, and launching our data lake in the cloud. We’re really excited about the opportunity for analytics, and also a big goal is to get as much information in the officer’s hand both at the beginning of the shift, so they have a situational awareness of what has happened in their patrol area since they were last on duty, and also when they’re in route to the call, to give them the pertinent information they need to be prepared and effective. At the same we want to be careful we’re not drowning them in data. The focus is curating data, so we’re providing that valued information on demand, but it is not a waterfall of random data”

What has challenged you over the past year, from a business needs perspective?

We’ve all had experience working in the COVID-19 environment, and even now, as D.C. is returning to work, there’s still — for a state government — long-term budget implications. The funding levels aren’t quite the same, so not just trying to keep the lights on, but trying to innovate in the current fiscal environment is challenging.

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Jeanne Holm, deputy mayor for budget and innovation of Los Angeles

Jeanne Holm, deputy mayor for budget and innovation of Los Angeles

In the past year, what have you accomplished within your role that you want people to know about?

In my new responsibility, I oversee the city’s budget, and we were able in this difficult economic time to deliver the most progressive budget, focused on equity, that we’ve ever done in the city’s history. We committed a billion dollars, working with the mayor and city council, toward our justice budget, which is a series of new programs focused on equity and helping close some of the divides on digital equity, racial equity and wealth equity.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the past year? 

In the midst of this tragedy, there’s been this one space of digital transformation that has probably accelerated 10 times. So in one year, we’ve probably made 10 years of progress in trying to bring services online, in trying to help people understand understand about enterprise-level applications, in trying to make sure our cybersecurity team is front and center in the development and design of systems and making sure we’re doing this in a person-centered way. It’s centered around the people who have often been left out of that conversation — the homeless, immigrants, elderly and youth — so they’re able to come in and be a part of government and participate in government and new and different ways.

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Maria Macgunigal, CIO of Sacramento, California

Maria Macgunigal, CIO of Sacramento, California

What have you and your team accomplished in the past year that you want people to know about?

I am really proud of the work that we did in terms of digital equity. We did develop and deliver a digital equity program for the community, which was a million dollars in CARES funding in partnership with many community-based organizations and the United Way to get computers and hotspots and connectivity services and education to people who needed it. We really kind of muscled down in terms of building relationships with the right parts of the community so we could reach those vulnerable people. We did collect some demographic data about that and we do feel like we really did meet our objective in that regard, rather than just kind of putting out general messaging that we have these services or devices.

What have some of your largest challenges been?

Like many organizations, we didn’t have a lot of experience with remote work. I would say some divisions and some departments throughout the city had some experience, but it was pretty limited. So as we moved to a fully remote environment, it really was a big lift for the organization to shift how it gets work done and how managers and supervisors support their teams in a remote environment. 

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