Changing jobs in an unstable economy may seem like a dicey move, particularly if you’re successful and valued in your current position. But for two former county IT leaders, going to work in the same capacity for their hometowns was an easy decision.
Laura Fucci (Henderson, Nev.) and Greg Branch (Morganton, N.C.) departed from their roles as CIO of Clark County, Nev., and IT director of Caldwell County, N.C., respectively, in late 2012. And while both admitted the desire to work where they’re from was a major factor in their decisions, the opportunities have also provided new professional challenges and conveniences that should enhance their careers.
One of the most significant changes for the duo is the ability for each of them to now serve a smaller user base. Morganton has roughly 250 employees — a significant drop from the 600 workers employed by Caldwell County. Branch said that while he was comfortable at the county and “settled in to retire there,” the job change has lessened his workload and stress level by half.
“It allows me to be a lot more involved and intimate,” Fucci explained. “The interaction is a lot closer and department heads actually stop by and talk. At the county it is just so large it is a lot more effort to connect with everybody.”
Branch agreed. He said the IT director position at Morganton will now allow him to plan and do some of the research and development he was unable to do at the county because IT was spread so thin.
“In the city it’s a whole lot easier to work with the big picture because it’s not so enormous,” Branch added. “That would be the benefit of a smaller [city] staff. You get to observe, manage and … see what’s working and talk to constituents.”
Fucci is also excited to have a smaller IT team to work with. She guides a group of about 70 people in Henderson. When she started at Clark County after an 11-year stint as CTO of MGM Mirage, Fucci had an IT staff of 180. That was trimmed to 150 by 2012. In addition, her staff was separated and located in two buildings.
Having staff in multiple locations was a challenge for Fucci. She explained the separateness caused some issues surrounding teamwork. In Henderson, Fucci believes she has an opportunity to do more collaborative projects. Branch heads a team of three employees, after having a six-person IT staff in Caldwell County.
Despite the pride in serving her hometown and the new professional challenges working for Henderson affords her, Fucci remains proud of her time in Clark County. She said that deploying a VoIP network was one of her biggest accomplishments that saved the county approximately $2.5 million per year.
While Branch said it was too early in his tenure to rattle off a list of upcoming projects and challenges, he said collaboration is certainly on the agenda for 2013. Morganton is in the midst of integrating its 911 operations in a joint venture with Valdese, N.C., and Burke County, N.C. That work is right up Branch’s alley, as he was also responsible for 911 communications with Caldwell County.
Branch would also like to see Morganton adopt a document imaging solution and said it’s one of the early goals he’d like to accomplish with the city. He added that getting to know the different city departments is also a priority. At Caldwell County, he didn’t have cable and electric utilities to think about technology-wise.
Fucci is in a similar situation. She said her assessment period is still ongoing, so it’d premature to share too much publicly before she speaks to Henderson city leaders and her staff. But one of the ongoing projects that started last year was a complete redesign of the city’s website. The city is also planning to replace the computer system that handles land use permitting.
Like Branch, however, Fucci is also familiarizing herself with the different types of utilities and departments that she’ll be working with and how technology can help improve communication with city residents.
“I am definitely interested in transparency and helping to get information out there,” Fucci said. “As a citizen myself, I would like to see that happen more … and I think technology plays a role in that.”