After a three-decade career in government, New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Anne Roest is retiring.
Taking her place is Samir Saini, who has been Atlanta’s chief information officer for three years. The city swore in a new mayor at the beginning of the year, an event which often prompts CIO departures. Though there is no exact date set for Roest to leave, Saini will start at DOITT at the end of January and Roest will stay on for a few weeks to help with the transition.
In an email, Roest said the timing of the decision is personal — she's retiring so that she can move with her partner to Vermont, where she wants to spend more time at a home she purchased years ago.
"It was a hard decision," Roest wrote.
She might not stay away from all work — she's "exploring opportunities" — but there's no job lined up for her.
Saini started his government career in 2010 after beginning in the private sector, and quickly made a name for himself building out fiber connectivity and embracing data analytics. During his time in the city’s IT office, Saini led efforts to gather more valuable traffic data in order to deal with mounting congestion problems, launched a smart city corridor, moved systems to the cloud and helped connect low-income housing residents to the Internet.
Roest came to New York City in 2014 after more than 25 years working for New York state in various capacities, including public safety CIO.
While managing the largest municipal IT office in the country, DOITT took on some ambitious work. It was under Roest that the city rolled out its fleet of more than 1,000 LinkNYC Internet-connected kiosks, with plans to eventually install 7,500. The department helped launch a city-specific Census data map, then it helped launch a new open data portal. She has also helped set up the first citywide Cyber Command center.
Perhaps the largest single effort Saini will take on as he starts the new role is an effort to fully digitize the city's 911 system. The new system should be able to accept texts, photos, videos and social media as well as phone calls.
Roest said some of the highlights of her career were the installation of the first LinkNYC kiosk and the opening of a 911 center in the Bronx, which she described as "an impossible project with an impossible timeline that an amazing interagency team delivered."
"The best moments have been seeing the pride and ownership of the government works," she wrote. "I believe in the workforce, the mission, and the people in government who have never let me down. They work hard and smart and deliver."
As she leaves, Roest is urging government IT leaders not to let themselves fall behind on broader technological changes.
"The most important thing in government IT right now is to learn how to change with the changing technology landscape," she wrote. "As the rate of change increases, it becomes harder for government to stay ahead. We have to keep our eye on the ball and embrace change as an enabler of great business solutions."
In a written statement, Saini said he's excited to start his new job and thanked Roest for building the team he'll be leading.
"I look forward to building on the progress already made at DOITT to further strengthen and ensure the reliability and security of NYC systems and infrastructure," Saini wrote. "I’m also thrilled about the opportunity to partner with New York City agencies to advance the use of innovative technologies that can improve quality of life for all New Yorkers.”
In a simultaneous announcement, the city revealed that it has named Debbie Rosen chief of staff to First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan. Per a mayoral executive order, the first deputy mayor oversees New York City Cyber Command.