Steve Ferguson, CIO of Sacramento, Calif., is leaving the state's capital to become CIO of San Jose, Calif. He starts work in the Silicon Valley city Sept. 15, earning $195,000 annually.
"There is a high interest in technology and how it works to provide public service in San Jose," Ferguson said. "It's been a little bit of a struggle in Sacramento, getting the same level of interest at the highest levels."
Ferguson got wind of the job opening last January and submitted his resume the following month. The opportunity to work with San Jose City Manager Debra Figone enticed him because of her focus on government IT.
"I've known her for about 10 years and respect her a great deal," Ferguson said.
San Jose has gone without a regular CIO since 2006, when it lost John Bjurman after only six months on the job. Wandzia Grycz held the position before him until she resigned in 2005. A city audit accused her and others of breaking city rules in designing a phone-and-network contract with Cisco Systems Inc. for San Jose's new City Hall. Grycz later sued, claiming she left under city pressure and faced false, disparaging remarks from city officials. She settled with the city for $10,000 earlier this year.
Ferguson's job switch made his retirement benefits through the California Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) more lucrative. The system will base Ferguson's benefits on his San Jose salary, which is 28 percent higher than his Sacramento pay rate.
"I get a big jump in my PERS benefits as well as getting San Jose retirement when I leave there," Ferguson said.
He recently oversaw the deployment of Sacramento's 311 customer relationship management (CRM) system. Ferguson also considers overhauling the city's utility billing system in 2005 and introducing its online permit system in 2006 to be among his greatest Sacramento accomplishments.
Ferguson and his wife initially plan to keep their home in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay. Ferguson will spend Monday through Friday in San Jose.
"We're going to sit tight for a while, do the commute thing and then decide at some point in time if we want to make the move," Ferguson said.
Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.