Richard Vandenberg is a 30-year veteran of the IT industry. He spent 15 years at the South Coast Air Quality Management District -- the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
He moved to Reno in 1997 to take his position as the city's director of communication and technology. Since then, he has seen his role and influence expand from only IT to issues to encompass all aspects of telecommunications for the city.
In recent years, Reno has been transformed by numerous changes, both technological and sociological, as the city copes with a burgeoning population.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in 2006?
My biggest challenge would be managing end-user expectations as far as technology is concerned. One issue I constantly get into with the city is there is a lot of new technology being passed around to a lot of different people within the city. Everybody has a tendency to look at [the new technology] and say, "Oh man, that would make my life so much easier. Why don't we go ahead and get this?"
The other thing I need to do is make sure there is consistency across the applications and platforms I bring in to keep the cost down on the technology we're using in the city.
Reno is gaining a reputation as being a high-tech haven. To what do you attribute that?
I would attribute it to our City Council, and being close to the University of Nevada, Reno, and to Silicon Valley. I think a lot of the innovative technology that was in Silicon Valley has been migrating to Reno because it's cheaper to live and work here, and it's a nice quality of life.
Also, I've had an excellent City Council that basically says, "Let's bring in the technology where it makes sense, where it can make us more efficient and where we can get our return on investment. Let's not bring in technology just for technology's sake."
The other thing is we aren't leading edge on anything. We try and stay cutting edge. We let other cities with deeper pockets take the plunge -- then adopt those best practices or products that worked.
What is the most surprising thing you've encountered in your nine years?
With the influx of technology and the way it's beginning to cross over, the Council and the city managers basically said, "Rick, since you're our technology guy, we want to make you responsible for these things."