Lea Eriksen discusses the challenges, priorities she faces in the new role and how her background in government budget and finance is helping.
Lea Eriksen was named the director of technology and innovation for Long Beach, Calif., last month after working in that role on an interim basis since January.
In an interview this week, Eriksen discussed the challenges and priorities that will guide her work in the position, as well as how her lengthy background in municipal government finance is a major asset for any public technology executive.
Perhaps the most telling insight into the job Eriksen is tasked with is her list of priorities. One of the top items is the city’s critical technology investment program, which Eriksen described as a road map for investment that is likely to guide tech spending over the next couple of years. A major component of the program is technology for the new civic center to better meet employee needs and also enable collaboration within the building. This includes a strong enough network to support items such as conferencing and soft phones.
“The environment we’re trying to have in all of the new city hall is a more collaborative environment and more open,” Eriksen said.
Her background is certainly suited to work with an investment road map, both in terms of the technology it includes and in the managing of the money. Eriksen first came to Long Beach city government four years ago as the budget manager before becoming the assistant finance director. In a press release announcing her installment as the city’s permanent tech exec last month, City Manager Patrick West noted that Eriksen had overseen “multimillion-dollar budgets” as well as managed critical projects in the city.
Other priorities, she said, include making sure the technology and innovation group is a better partner to the other departments in the city, addressing the department’s current 15 percent staff vacancy rate, cybersecurity, digital inclusion and continuing to collaborate on data-driven governance projects with the Long Beach Innovation Team.
Work is currently underway in most — if not all of those areas — thanks to projects such as a digital inclusion effort to bolster the availability of free public Wi-Fi across the jurisdiction, as well as the city’s fiber backbone.
An overall goal of this work is to make sure that you can get online within two miles anywhere in the city. The city is also working on a project related to e-waste, which involves refurbishing discarded tech and finding it a good and useful home.
Eriksen’s department is also partnering with the public library on digital literacy programs aimed at ensuring that residents are not left behind as society’s reliance on technology continues to accelerate.
Before coming to Long Beach, Eriksen was previously in Cincinnati for nearly eight years, serving as the city’s budget director. Ericksen draws a direct connection between the work she’s done in municipal government finance and her new tech leadership position, noting that the perspective is a useful one in deciding where money is best spent and how to maximize the investments to serve all central functions.