As the information systems director of Chico, Calif., Lynn McEnespy has a lot to think about. Keeping 400 city employees happy with a six-person IT staff and getting the city's Web presence to support the urban population of 90,000 is only the beginning. With a small budget and students at California State University-Chico just a mile away, McEnespy is doing all she can to put the small city of Chico on the government-IT map.
How do you perceive technology's importance in Chico's growth?
You absolutely have to have at least some form of communications and technology or you're simply out of touch. We're relatively fortunate that Chico State is here, so we have a fairly high level of cognizance of what can be accomplished with computers [and] the Internet. We're a long way from Silicon Valley and we certainly don't have the budget that some of the larger cities do, but we do have a number of people who are supportive of our efforts. There are still bigger issues as the city grows: There is never enough bandwidth; computers are never fast enough; they're never powerful enough; the screens are never big enough; they're never flat enough. There's all the fancy hardware stuff that people want to have. It'd be great to be able to provide them with all of that. And as time goes on we'll probably get there; it just takes us a while.
Do CIOs at the municipal level have more flexibility than those at the state level?
It would depend, because we're driven by a city council. If you have the support of the city council and you have money, then you do have a lot of flexibility. It depends upon the political climate and will of the community you live in. We're starting to get into that world because [members of] our city council have constituents that want to be able to do governmental business without having to worry about finding a place to park; they don't want to have to come downtown and stand in line and they don't want to get schlepped off from one counter to another with the preliminary bureaucratic red tape run-around.
How do you take advantage of your affiliation with Chico State?
We've got an intern program with the university where students can come and get some experience depending on what they want to do. The university came in and did a feasibility study of what we needed to do. A lot of times we'll talk to them about that kind of thing. [Their Web design class] has taken our Web site and basically shredded it. They made it a class project to come up with ideas as to what would be better for a city government Web site.
Do you think the city's technology growth will parallel the university's technology curriculum?
It probably will to a certain extent. We will never be on the leading edge simply because we don't have the resources. We like to be in the middle part of the pack. We don't want to be outdated but, then again, we can't afford to be at the leading edge of technology. We pretty much have to stick with tried and true. So the university is pretty much in that ball game. As things are proven in technology and it becomes more reliable and consistent, then we sort of jump on the bandwagon.