Steve Steinbrecher became CIO of Northern California's Contra Costa County in June 1995 after serving as director of information systems for nearby San Joaquin County. He is a past president of the California County Information Services Director's Association.
1. Is yours an appointed position, civil service, etc.?
I am appointed by the county executive and the board of supervisors.
2. What training was most useful to you in your current position?
My undergraduate degrees in journalism and political science. Communication with other human beings, along with the ability to communicate a vision of some-thing not invented yet, are the most important aspects of being a successful CIO.
3. What are the biggest IT issues currently facing your jurisdiction?
Lack of ability to hire and retain the necessary staff to maintain pace with the rapid change curve. It is the CIO's responsibility to work with the human resources people to market public service in a positive light that can replace pure compensa-tion issues. We have not been able to make that transition yet, and it is frustrating.
4. What IT program are you most proud of?
Contra Costa County is recognized as a national leader for our Year 2000 project. When we began, there were no guidelines, rules, landmarks or vendors to assist us. We did it all on our own. We got beat up big-time, but we learned. Our county executive, Y2K project manager and Team 2000 won leadership awards for their tremendous efforts, which just thrills me!
5. How will IT change in five years?
The process of change, product rollout, and change management will continue to accelerate. The good news is that, with the right attitude, the IT field will still be the best fun in employment possible.
6. What do you wish vendors would do or not do?
Vendors need to begin looking more at the long-term value of their relationships with public-sector organizations, as opposed to how well their numbers look for the next close-of-quarter on Wall Street. This is a pipe dream, but it just is not possible for local government, due to the inherent nature of the Americandemocratic process, to move as quickly as the commercial world wants.
7. When did you decide to enter government and what was the reason?
I have owned and operated my own technology-consulting business. I kind of just fell into working with local government, and decided it was an important and positive opportunity to work with the entire community of people I live with.
8. How do you stay ahead of your e-mail?
I don't! I usually respond to about 150 messages every day. I manage a batch in the morning, another while working through the lunch hour, and finally in the evenings. I also am "wired" in my home office. I am known around here as the "E-Mail King," and rarely use voice mail, my backup for e-mail.
9. How do you use the Internet? What sites are most useful to you?
I use the Internet as a research tool, looking at technology sites, year-2000 sites, the state Legislature to review pending IT actions, and I try to hit every other county web site in California at least once a month to see how the "competition" is doing, and compare what is happening with their boards of supervisors and mine. We also use the Internet to post our job listings.
10. What's your favorite quote?
"You can't cheat an honest man." -- W.C. Fields
11. Who's the person you most admire?
My mother and father. They gave me all the tools I needed to do something useful with my life.