After roughly three months of searching, Baltimore has hired a veteran technology executive as its new chief information officer and chief digital officer.
Frank Johnson, a fixture at Intel for more than a quarter-century, went to work for Baltimore in October as its new CIO and CDO. He was most recently vice president and general manager for the Intel Americas Industry Sales Group in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, a post he held for more than eight years.
He is Baltimore's first CIO hire from the private sector since at least 2010; the city's three most recent CIOs have come from government — two from within City Hall.
Johnson's long tenure at Intel along with a wide-ranging focus on technology are signs the city is serious about modernizing an aging mainframe architecture and taking a partially paper-based culture electronic.
"From my understanding in talking with him, this is his No. 1 mission … to make sure that the technology, innovation and modernization are brought forward into the 21st century," said Joan M. Pratt, the city's comptroller and a member of the five-person Board of Estimates that approved Johnson's contract.
Pratt described the city as "in dire need of technology innovation and modernization," because several "key support systems," at more than 20 years of age, are siloed and cause "additional steps when processing information and requests."
She said Johnson's hiring is a step in the right direction "because the mayor is looking for someone with fresh ideas and someone who can bring best practices and state-of-the-art business practices in IT."
His move to the city is a return to government that's a long time in the making; Johnson was a senior security engineer for the federal government from 1985 to 1990, also in the D.C. area.
But his hiring isn't cheap; at $250,000 annually, his salary reportedly tops that of the state's attorney, who earned $238,000 in 2016 according to The Baltimore Sun.
Pratt described Johnson's salary as "probably commensurate with his experience and what he's been tasked to do," pointing out that Baltimore competes with other governments and the private sector in making such hires.
"I just believe that this transformation will make the city as a whole operate better. All agencies will be able to interact since we're one city," Pratt said.
Funding for software and infrastructure remains to be allocated, she said, describing modernization as a "top priority" for Mayor Catherine Pugh's administration.
"In the long run, I think it will save the city and the citizens money, so I think money will be allocated," Pratt added.
The city has been without a dedicated CIO since February, when then-CIO Jerome Mullen resigned and was immediately replaced by Acting CIO Evette Munro, the former deputy CIO. Mullen, too, had previously served as Baltimore's deputy CIO.
The reasons for his resignation were unclear at the time, but connected by The Sun and the Baltimore Brew to problems with the city's website and a desire from the Mayor's Office of Information Technology to expand its role — and to give residents better access to city services.
Munro resigned effective Wednesday, July 12, as Pugh reiterated the need for an IT modernization.
Mullen's predecessor Christopher Tonjes, who had been CIO for the District of Columbia Public Library, came to Baltimore in late 2012. He resigned in June 2014 during a fraud investigation into allegations that the department paid contract employees for work they didn't do.