February 17, 2011 By Hilton Collins
Government IT projects can take awhile to get off the ground, thanks to bureaucratic, manpower or budget hurdles, but so far, nothing’s stopped Terry Bledsoe from getting quite a bit done in Catawba County, N.C. He’s been CIO there for more than five years, and under his leadership, the county’s made noteworthy strides in technology adoption.
“Before I was the CIO, I was the CTO for the county school system,” Bledsoe said. “I retired there after 30 years and went to work for IBM for a year and now I’m back here.”
Bledsoe planted his feet firmly in Catawba ground as county CIO in 2006, and so much has happened since, one might wonder if he’s paused for rest. The Emergency Operations Center monitors social media like Twitter and Facebook, along with traditional news outlets, to discover disaster information and citizen sentiment that may not be as readily available otherwise. The county can also disseminate alerts via social media.
“Being able to monitor the social networks and also being able to send information to Twitter and Facebook in real time is a plus,” he said.
Catawba County also received a $1 million grant to buy portable radios for firefighters. The county is migrating its emergency management communications network to an 800 MHz frequency to increase interoperability with other radio systems. But it’ll keep the current one as backup.
Bledsoe’s tenure has also seen the January deployment of quick response (QR) codes, black-and-white squares filled with pixilated shapes, on building permit hard cards, which are posted at construction sites. A person could take a smartphone with the appropriate app and scan the code to discern inspection status. The information is also linked to a GIS so people can view zoning and other location-based information from scanning the QR code.
Bledsoe appreciates the great staff he’s had along the way.
“I have a very good, creative staff,” he said. “They’re willing to look at things and say, ‘Yeah, we can use this piece out of this particular technology, and we can tie these two pieces of technology together and make it do this.’”
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