Approximately four months after Riverside, Calif.'s longtime Chief Innovation Officer, Steve Reneker, announced his departure, City Manager Scott Barber named his successor: Lea Deesing has been appointed as Riverside's new Chief Innovation Officer, effective April 8.
Deesing has worked in IT for 24 years, most recently as Associate Vice Chancellor of Information Services for the Riverside Community College District, according to a press release from the city. During her career, Deesing says she has developed a “seven point path” to successful leadership -- a path she will follow while serving as Riverside's Chief Innovation Officer.
"Government IT leadership requires much more than management," Deesing said. "It involves having an in-depth understanding of the government technology field, conveying a passionate drive to lead the organization to success, serving as an advocate for city-wide technology projects, committing to success, following through to drive change, building trust between the department and project stakeholders, and then publicizing successes."
Deesing, pictured at left, also points out that publicity is critical to building departmental credibility. "Some IT leaders want to stay under the radar and avoid publicity at any cost," she said. "I believe the modern CIO must drive their team to success, then let the world know about it. This helps build a trusted relationship between the department, the organization and the community."
As for the difference between the traditional Chief Information Officer and the more recent Chief Innovation Officer, Deesing says she believes the Chief Innovation Officer title raises the bar. "Using the word 'innovation' makes the position a superset of the typical Chief Information Officer. It says, 'We know you can manage information, but we want more. We want you to partner with the organization to drive innovative change throughout the organization, the community and beyond.'”
In that vein, Deesing will be directly responsible for the city’s strategic use of technology, as well as manage the Innovation and Technology Department and work closely with city departments to improve processes and enhance citizen services.
More specifically, Deesing says she will target public-facing responsibilities like community engagement, economic development and marketing of citizen services. "As the economy recovers, careful allocation of funding must be taken to ensure budgetary viability moving forward," she said. "Even during the most prosperous times, our focus should be to find innovative ways to provide increased service value to our residents."
Deesing says she finds it truly exciting that the city has received such significant international recognition in the past, having been named 2012’s Most Intelligent Community of the Year.
"Not only do I want to carry on the legacy that is already in place," she said, "but I will set forth a plan to employ my own personal leadership traits and innovative thinking to find new ways to serve the public."
Photo of Lea Deesing courtesy of Lea Deesing; main photo by Jessica Mulholland
Jessica Mulholland served as the Web editor of Government Technology magazine from October 2012 through September 2017. She worked for the Government Technology editorial team for nearly 10 years.