With decades of public- and private-sector IT experience, Stephen Elkins is a calming force in an era of rapid technological change. Since being appointed Austin CIO five years ago, he has championed a transition toward shared services, open data, and streamlined IT processes and projects throughout the city.
One current project for Elkins is using data to ease gridlock on city roads, particularly during major events like University of Texas at Austin football games. The plan calls for continually retiming traffic lights using data provided by apps on drivers’ cellphones.
In addition, like many of his fellow CIOs, Elkins faces a looming “silver tsunami” of IT staff eligible for retirement in the next few years — roughly 30 percent of his workforce. To stem the tide, Elkins is embracing innovative hiring practices to fill tech roles.
Staff members, for example, are cross-trained on multiple IT jobs where possible, and retirees often fill in as temporary employees until permanent hires can be made. Elkins also wants to use Austin’s reputation as a college town and live music mecca to recruit out-of-town IT talent.
Collaboration is another priority. Elkins has supported partnerships with Code for America and embraced the value of hackathons to spur IT innovation in the city. But perhaps his most valuable move has been fostering regional cooperation with Corpus Christi, Houston, Fort Worth, Harris County and other local governments in Texas to tackle common issues such as cybersecurity, vendor management and public-safety dispatch.
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.