Tampa, Florida, Chief Information Officer Russell Haupert retired last week after more than a decade of service with the city and several stints in other local governments throughout Florida.
For Haupert, his time working in government was personal. He told StateScoop he wanted to give back to the systems that helped him obtain his college education as a first-generation student who relied on federal grants and financial aid to make his dreams a reality.
“If you would have told me at 17 years old that I might be the CIO of one of the greatest cities in America with 128 people working for me, I would never have believed it,” Haupert said in an interview. “The thing for me is, I got a lot of help along the way from the government and so from my standpoint, I feel like it’s important to give back.”
Haupert said that his career in local government happened accidentally. With a degree in business management and organizational behavior from Florida Atlantic University, Haupert thought he’d end up as an accountant.
But after working for a company that did outsourcing for banks in the late 90s and early 2000s, he figured it was time to find something more stable while he finished college. He wound up taking a job as a night operator with the City of Coral Springs in southern Florida.
“It’s one of things — one thing led to another and eight years later I was the director there,” Haupert said. “It seemed to me that, well, things are going pretty well. I might as well stay in the government IT space.”
Over the years, he occasionally dipped into the private sector, but said he was always drawn back to local government looking for a challenge.
Haupert first joined the City of Tampa in 2011 as a business applications manager. He said at the time, the city’s technology was behind. Within a year, he moved into the role of director of technology and innovation, which includes responsibilities as both chief information officer and chief technology officer.
During his tenure in Tampa, Haupert saw the city transform into the state’s tech capital. Through his leadership, he prioritized expanding government services and improving reliability. He’s also credited with implementing and upgrading more systems in Tampa over the last five years than the 15 years prior.
Haupert credits his business education for helping him lead his IT staff to be highly productive. When he started, he said, he analyzed what the department’s strengths were, what customers needed and how to train his staff to meet those demands. He also implemented the first performance management system for his department, which later expanded throughout the city’s government.
“The thing I’m most proud of is I took those same people, gave them the tools and the training they needed and let them become the kinds of support folks they really could be,” Haupert said.
Before retiring, Haupert completed the last remaining projects on Mayor Jane Castor’s IT roadmap, which included replacing the city’s agenda management, time and attendance systems, implementing a new customer relationship management system and integrating a new computerized maintenance management system for the city’s utility department.
Though Haupert said he has some upcoming personal plans — including a trip to Spain with his wife for his birthday — he’s not planning on staying retired for long. He said he’s already mapping out the next step of his career, a new job that would allow him to take his success from Tampa and expand those skills to other cities throughout the country.
“Government service is a great thing. It can be as exciting, it can be as satisfying and as lucrative even, as a person could want,” Haupert said. “What I’d really like to encourage folks is look at how successful we’ve been at the City of Tampa, look at your local government and think what could you do to contribute to that.”