Pittsburgh Taps South Bend, Ind., CIO to Lead Innovation Team

Santiago Garces, who was hired by South Bend, Ind., after graduating from Notre Dame University in 2013, is resigning to become the next director of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance.

by / December 27, 2018
South Bend Chief Innovation Officer Santiago Garces speaks at the Summit on Data-Smart Government at Harvard University.

South Bend, Ind., CIO Santiago Garces is resigning his position to take a new job as the director of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance, according to a press release.

Garces’ nomination is still subject to city council approval. This comes after more than five years of doing tech and innovation work for the local government in South Bend. Garces started as a performance and innovation manager there in 2013 before being appointed CIO in 2015.

During his time in South Bend, Garces and the city have earned a national reputation for punching above their weight, so to speak. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has thrown a massive amount of support behind innovation, creating a culture where tech is used to tackle community problems and vastly improve governmental efficiency. Within that framework, Garces has been able to execute a number of projects that would be the envy of larger cities.

These projects include expanding the city’s 311 service center, building both internal and external collaborations throughout the city government, hiring the city’s first chief technology officer, migrating servers to the cloud, outsourcing help desk tasks in order to free up city staffers for researching larger solutions, and building a consistent pipeline for new talent between the city and local academic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame. That's just a sample of the work South Bend has done in recent years, with other tech and innovation efforts that focus on everything from economic development to digital inclusion.

Garces also rose to national prominence by participating in sector-leading groups such as the Civic Analytics Network — a Harvard University-organized collaborative group of city leaders engaged in data-driven projects — and the Metro Lab Network, which fosters close academic and public sector collaborations.

A Princeton University report about South Bend’s tech and innovation work notes that when Garces first came to the city back in 2013, there was much work to be done, and that, “With virtually no resources and no road map, Garces and Buttigieg set out to improve the way local government served the interests of citizens, beginning with reducing urban blight.”

Garces’ roots in South Bend date back further, though. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Garces earned bachelor's and master’s degrees from Notre Dame, before helping to found a group called enFocus, which is a post-graduate fellowship program that helps students like him foster civic innovation in the area.

Much like South Bend, the Pittsburgh government is an active participant in both data-driven analytics work and academic collaborations through the Metro Lab Network.

“Santi Garces is a national leader in finding data-driven solutions to make cities more efficient, transparent and responsive to their residents,” said Mayor William Peduto in a press release. “Pittsburgh will be lucky to have him.”

South Bend will start its search for a new CIO soon, posting the job on its website while Chief Technology Officer Dan O’Connor and Director of Civic Innovation Brian Donoghue fill in for Garces in the short term, according to a press release from the city.