Paul Hopingardner, deputy director of communications and technology management for the city of Austin, has been named Travis County’s new chief information officer, a position he will begin later this month.
Loretta Farb, an executive assistant to Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, confirmed that Hopingardner, who has been with the city of Austin for more than 17 years, will join the county on Monday, Oct. 30.
A review of county records shows Eckhardt and members of the agency’s Commissioners Court, its chief policymaking and administrative branch, voted 4-0 with one member absent, on Tuesday, Sept. 26 to hire Hopingardner.
The longtime city executive, who joined Austin in April 2000 as supervisor of Internet services, was its deputy CIO assigned to infrastructure from 2007-2009; and deputy CIO for public safety from 2009-December 2016.
Tracey Calloway, human resources director for Travis County, oversaw Hopingardner’s selection and hiring. He was chosen after numerous interviews, not only with the court but with peers “who are fellow county executives, including the CIO of a similarly-sized county,” she said in an email.
“It was obvious to all involved that Paul has the strategic ability and results to prove that he will be a great partner in ensuring that Travis County’s mission to provide quality information technology services to county departments through innovative technology services is met,” Calloway said.
She cited his ability to connect with “individuals at all levels, tie in business principles with IT solutions, and get collaborative results” as core talents. The county reviewed more than 250 applicants in a national search before making its decision.
Hopingardner said his years of institutional knowledge should serve him well and contrasted his current position, which includes executing some day-to-day issues, with his new, more strategic role.
“I think the most important thing for the CIO is that he’s a business leader and is responsible for making sure the technology enables all the parts of government to be able to deliver services that are necessary internally and to the residents,” he said.
Updating Travis County’s IT strategic plan won’t happen immediately, however. Hopingardner will spend his first 90 days hearing from other county stakeholders including its judge, commissioners and executives on how he might help them in “what they’re trying to accomplish,” and meeting internally with IT staffers to hear what projects they’ve been working on.
“My belief is that when you go on to a new organization, you have to listen and listen and listen in order to understand the organization. You first have to understand the needs of the organization and what the stakeholders are attempting to accomplish,” he said.
City-county collaborations nationally vary in strength, but Hopingardner said Austin and Travis County maintain a multi-layered relationship through a variety of strategic partnerships including the Combined Transportation and Emergency Communications Center, the joint City of Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center, and the Greater Austin-Travis County Regional Radio System.
“We were always good, strong partners between the agencies and this is just an opportunity to continue that effort. I absolutely see the county as a strong partner and I just see opportunities to build on and provide services to the residents of Travis County,” he said.
Hopingardner will replace interim CIO John Stark. Stark, in turn, replaced Tanya Acevedo, who held the position for five years and started work on Monday, July 17 as chief technology officer for the Houston Airport System.