After five years as San Francisco’s CIO, Jon Walton left the city on Jan. 11 to take a new job as CIO of San Mateo County, Calif., and director of the county’s Information Services Department.
Under Walton’s leadership, San Francisco created a citywide IT training program in partnership with employee organizations; completed its first five-year Information and Communications Technology Plan; and received many awards for its mobile, Web and SFGovTV services. We asked Walton about his legacy in San Francisco and his plans for San Mateo.
What would you say is the accomplishment you’re most proud of from your work in San Francisco?
I’m most proud of setting up a really good IT governance structure so all the departments felt like they had a voice; people were very involved and engaged; and we made some good progress internally on a shared version. Externally the thing I come back to most is we have this whole program about connecting the community to technology — like our Wi-Fi projects, mobile app project, our hackathons and our BTOP [Broadband Technology Opportunities Program], which is to put high-tech homework centers in youth centers. It is just all about connecting the community via technology and I think that’s been really important for San Francisco.
Why did you decide to make the move to San Mateo?
I like challenges and I like change — that’s just my personality. When I met with San Mateo and talked about what they wanted to accomplish, it really got me excited because there’s so much opportunity there.
What are a few ways that your experience in San Francisco will help you as CIO of San Mateo County?
From an operational standpoint, two things we were able to do in San Francisco: [One of them] was turn around the feelings of the customers about the quality of service they were getting from the IT department. Five years ago, our scores were fairly low in customer satisfaction, so we spent a lot of time over the past few years trying to turn that feeling around. One of the things I heard when I came down to San Mateo was the IT staff was working really hard, and even though they were doing their best, the customer satisfaction was just not as high as it should be. The other thing, quite frankly, is around cost saving. And here in San Mateo County, we still have a bunch of deficit we need to close. In San Francisco in the last five years, we reduced the IT spend by over $25 million. The gap is not that big in San Mateo, but I have a $1.1 million budget gap at least in my department over the next few years. So I am hoping to take some of those lessons learned from San Francisco to not only save money but to make things better through technology and save the county money.
Do you have any ideas for things that you want to do in San Mateo County?
I really want to get a high-tech community going and build public-private partnerships. I am a big fan of mobility and cloud applications — I definitely want to take a look at those and see if those are applicable to San Mateo County as well. I’ve already had some good conversations with senior management and staff, and we’re really looking forward to the next two or three months — digging in and finding where we are, coming up with a shared vision. I told them that I am very vocal and public, and I really want to engage their internal users and see what their interests are.
Photo of Jon Walton by David Kidd