Philadelphia's CDO steps down, prompting reorganization

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Philadelphia’s chief data officer will step down Jan. 1, the mayor’s office announced Monday.

City CDO Tim Wisniewski’s resignation came alongside an announcement from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to reorganize Philadelphia’s Office of Open Data & Digital Transformation, which Wisniewski directs.

Under the restructuring of ODDT, the open data program will now be supervised by the Office of Innovation and Technology, directed by Philadelphia’s chief innovation officer Mark Wheeler, according to the press release. Digital transformation work will continue to operate under ODDT, led by Liana Dragoman who has been named the interim director of ODDT.

According to Wheeler, the decision to move the open data program back under the control of OIT is largely a matter of efficiency. Currently split between two teams, the open data project will be reorganized under OIT to unify the data sharing effort, according to Wheeler. “It just makes sense to take a wall down between that operation,” he said.

Chief Administrative Officer Christine Derenick-Lopez, whose cabinet includes both ODDT and OIT, said, “Tim’s decision is a perfect opportunity to re-align the two units that have been under his leadership, and I know these vital initiatives are in good hands under Mark and Liana.”

The search for Wisniewski’s replacement as CDO has not begun, according to Wheeler. Wheeler said that before the position is posted and applicants are accepted, “we are discussing how we want the role to evolve.”

The open data program has inherited a lot of data quality issues, Wheeler said, and a major role of the new CDO will be to lead development of a data management strategy.

The current rolls of the CDO — communicating, collaborating, and bringing people together to talk through the process and fears of data release — will not change, said Wheeler.

As Philadelphia’s CDO for four years, Wisniewski, who was appointed by former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in July 2014, led the city’s efforts on open data and oversaw the 2018 launch of the new phila.gov.

Wisniewski said in a tweet Tuesday that he plans on spending the next six weeks helping with the transition and recruiting a new “dev ops” team for OIT. Wisniewski said he is moving to London after the transition, where he will decide his next career move.

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