Todd Sander began his career with a stint in the Air Force. Before landing his current position as CIO of Tucson, Ariz., Sander negotiated technology politics at the state level as CIO of Washington. With nine years of experience in the public sector, he strives for the democratization of technology and achieving responsible use of technology that will benefit the city and its constituents.
What is the difference between working at the state and local levels of government?
At the state level, things tend to focus more on a legal and policy framework for technology. Certainly there is some direct service delivery. But from the CIO standpoint, you spend a great deal of time on policy work. At the local level, it's more direct service delivery where we're closer to the people in some respects.
Which do you prefer?
I have enjoyed them both. One thing that was good about the order I did them in was at the local level, I got a chance to try and implement some of the policy-making and big-picture stuff we used to talk about at the state level. It was easy to make it into a repertory of innovation and try out some things we needed to talk about. That is harder to do in the larger environment. I have a real appreciation for the fact that, at any level, technology is just a tool. Sometimes it's the best and most appropriate tool, and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes there are better, more efficient, more effective ways to deliver service that don't require a lot of technology, and that's something that's played out even more directly at the local level. Changing the way people think about their work, their jobs or the way they view being in public service is easier in local government than state government.
What is your relationship with the mayor?
We have a council manager form of government. I report to the city manager, and he reports to the mayor and the six council members. So I have a general working relationship with the mayor. My conversations with him are more about community policy and the ability of technology to support that than anything else. The more operational discussions are with the manager and the other department directors. I have a great deal of freedom, and I am fortunate in that I have a great deal of credibility with the organization. My ability to influence things is as good as any CIO I know of anywhere in the country.
What is your relationship like with the city's IT department heads?
I think now that's pretty good too. It wasn't quite so good when I first got here. There was some confusion about roles and responsibilities. We had to come to an agreement on what the appropriate role of the central IT organization is and what the departmental IT organization's is. I took a firm view of a couple of things, and I've been rather laissez faire about the rest of it, so I think we found a pretty good balance now.