Bryan M. Sastokas, top technology official in Long Beach, California’s seventh-largest city, is taking on the same job at the nation’s third-largest transit agency.
Sastokas, who became Long Beach's chief information officer and head of its Technology and Innovation Department in 2015, will be the new CIO at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He replaces Metro’s former CIO, Dave Edwards, who retired earlier this year.
The agency fields more than 2,000 buses and six rail lines covering a 1,400-square-mile service area and carrying roughly 1.3 million passengers per day.
Sastokas, named one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers of 2015 when he was CIO in Oakland, isn’t wasting any time. His last day at Long Beach is Friday, April 6, and he will start at Metro on Monday, April 9, leading its Information and Technology Unit, which has 147 full-time employees and a $65.2 million annual budget.
Long Beach has named Lea D. Eriksen, its assistant director of finance, as interim director of the Technology & Innovation Department, a public affairs representative said.
As Metro’s new CIO, Sastokas will generally be responsible for leading and refreshing technology at a far-flung agency that, like other regional jurisdictions, faces emerging and ongoing transportation challenges.
Not the least of those, he said, is preparing Los Angeles to host the 2028 Summer Olympics. More immediately, however, he’ll be responsible for conducting an “ascertainment of where we are as an agency,” including reviewing previous assessments and determining current needs, according to Metro Deputy Executive Officer for Public Relations Joni Goheen.
Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington highlighted Sastokas’ public-sector experience and professional acclaim in a statement.
“He brings a demonstrated track record of harnessing innovation while building and deploying products, services and infrastructure that support our business needs. He is a perfect fit for Metro,” Washington said.
Sastokas started off his government IT career as CIO of Coral Springs, Fla., where he stayed for three years before heading to Modesto, Calif., for another three-year stint as that city's CIO.
In Oakland, Sastokas' accomplishments included spearheading the launch of RecordTrac, an open source records request platform, and supporting hackathons for youth in low-income areas. He was CIO there for 18 months before joining Long Beach.
In Long Beach, Sastokas emphasized using technology to empower residents, launching a new responsive website with a more efficient, consolidated content management system and debuting the one-stop open data site DataLB. He also led innovation in the C-suite by testing a virtual data officer position and hired the municipality’s first cyber-risk officer.
“We coined it that way because we knew we didn’t want someone who was solely in policy,” Sastokas said, adding that because of the ongoing danger cities face from virtual bad actors, Long Beach sought a candidate who could use technology like artificial intelligence and behavior patterning to do more than generate a list of “what shouldn’t be done.”
During Sastokas’ time with Long Beach, the city also worked with national technology innovation groups like CityMart, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Code for America to deliver engaging solutions. In 2016 the city launched BizPort, a portal aimed at connecting the business community to resources.
“We’re kind of this digital ombudsman connecting people to resources that maybe the city doesn’t provide,” Sastokas said in reference to BizPort. “We’re finding out we’re being more effective because we’re asking, not just taking things online, we’re connecting.”
In November 2015, Long Beach was named a Top 10 Digital City for the fifth consecutive year by the Center for Digital Government.*
His “capstone” moment, the CIO said, was being invited to the South by South Lawn (SXSL) event that convened creators and innovators at the White House in 2016, where he discussed data-driven justice — enabling first responders to do a better job of matching the public to the resources they need most.
Sastokas said he’s eager to join Metro to foster collaboration among its departments, other county agencies and with members of the public.
“We don’t know individually what we can all learn collectively. By doing that, I think we can really make Metro that community asset that it is,” he said.
Metro conducted a nationwide search for at least 60 days to identify its next CIO, Goheen said, noting the agency had sought a forward-thinking candidate.
“It’s not just looking at the projects that we have on tap and saying, ‘Okay, this is what we can do.’ It’s looking beyond that. It’s, what can you bring to the table? I know that’s what we’re looking for and it’s to be a more collaborative partner,” Goheen said, emphasizing the sheer size of the region the agency serves and its many partners across multiple levels of government, including 88 cities.
*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.