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Roseville, Calif., CIO Brings Global Background to Local Gov

Hong Sae is the CIO for the city of Roseville, Calif., and he has a tremendous track record of success in both Texas and California local government.

Downtown Roseville, Calif., Sign
I was recently sitting in a packed breakout room at the California Public Sector CIO Academy* while the excellent panel of current and former CIOs answered tough questions. The session was entitled, “A Day in the Life of the CIO,” and the powerhouse panel was full of experienced pros who offered witty answers from a statewide level, large agency perspective and more.

While I really liked all the participants’ responses, one person’s answers stood out for me: Hong Sae, the current chief information officer for the city of Roseville, Calif. You can see the impressive LinkedIn profile for Sae, as he prefers to be called, here.

What immediately impressed me about Sae was the vast global experience that he brings to his management roles every day. In addition to receiving numerous personal and team leadership awards, his background ranges from managing information systems for Tenet Healthcare to director of information management for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to chief information technology officer for the city of Irving, Texas, to his current role as CIO at the city of Roseville.

But most impressive (besides being fluent in five languages), is the work that Sae leads for cross-boundary government groups like the Municipal Information Systems Association of California (MISAC), where he offers best practices for technology and cybersecurity management for local governments nationwide.

Sae - City of Roseville.jpg
Dan Lohrmann (DL): You have a distinguished career. Tell us what motivated you to get into government technology. What are you most proud of?

Hong Sae (HS): I am humbled by your wonderful compliment. I have always been passionate about what I do, however, without the strong support system of my family, team, colleagues and countless mentors, I would not be where I am today. They are often my motivation. I enjoy working with diverse and talented teams across multiple domains to improve experience, connection, engagement and service delivery through the use of technology.

DL: As the CIO of Roseville, what are your top technology and business priorities? 

HS: In Roseville, we have adopted three priority goals within the Citywide Five-Year Strategic Technology Roadmap to transform citywide operations:

  • Goal A – Transform our city through people and partnerships, by using trusted partnerships to achieve shared goals.
  • Goal B – Optimize city operations through process efficiency, by implementing technology solutions that meet the needs of the organization and the community.
  • Goal C – Ensure reliable and secure technology, by providing technology infrastructure that ensures continuity of operations and information security.

DL: You've spent time working in government organizations in Texas and California — is there a different culture at work? What strengths and weaknesses have you noticed between roles? 

HS: The beauty of working in a different part of this great country really depends on individual choices of lifestyle, preference, income and industry that we are in. Each individual city and state may have a different concentration of labor force, educational entities, cost of living, quality of life, inclusiveness and diverse culture. We selected Roseville, Calif., to settle down for our family, because it is the best city to live-work-play in this country 🙂!

DL: Did COVID-19 change the way your government operated in Roseville? How so?

HS: Year 2020 was the year of inconsistency and flexibility. Year 2021 was the year of infection, inflation and invasion. Year 2022 was the year of great awakening.

During COVID-19, our technology world went from digital first responder to digital defender, and to digital/transformational strategist.

Not just me — CIO or any governmental leadership role, we are all focusing more today on forming collaborative partnerships (internally and externally) and investing in our team members with the right skills sets to deliver cost-effective solutions to support organizationwide operations and provide excellent services to our community.

DL: As a leader for local governments across California and the MISAC immediate past president, what is top of mind for leading local governments in California?

HS: As a leader, our commitment to become a HPO (high-performing organization) has become more apparent over time. We are focusing more on resilience/business continuity and protecting against risk, such as man-made activities, cybersecurity or natural/environmental issues. Utilizing game-changing technologies and data-driven decision-making to drive continuous improvement in how we serve our community, and promote concrete technology benefits in safety, sustainability, economic opportunity and quality of life for our residents, businesses and visitors. Finally, building a deliberate and focused strategy to allow us to stretch limited public dollars to be more cost-effective and productive.

DL: How much real partnering is going on across jurisdictions?

HS: The partnership among jurisdictions, and even within the local, state and federal agencies, is a complex subject depending on the program, issue and funding source. For example: The federal government supports the local jurisdictions by providing grants and regulatory guidance, i.e., CARES and ARP assistance.

In the world of technology infrastructure, broadband and cybersecurity are the two largest infrastructure partnership programs that the federal government is supporting for the local and state agencies. This transpires into implementing high-speed Internet access across all corners of this nation and providing guidance in whole-of-state cybersecurity strategy.

Challenges do exist, and the California Department of Technology CIO, Liana Bailey-Crimmins, is working in all fronts with all of us to improve communication, coordination and collaboration among all jurisdictions. Working together as one team by sharing resources, tools and best practices.

DL: Can government systems be truly secured? What are your priorities for cybersecurity improvements? 

HS: Government systems face significant cyber threats and ransomware challenges today. No system can be truly cyber safe and secured from all possible attacks. Having said that, to protect one's networks and critical infrastructure, government and all entities need to partner and invest in our people and skill sets, processes and the right technologies.

Understanding the benefits and balance between usability and cost while weighing the security risk is extremely important. Local government and state and federal agencies need to continue to work together to constantly monitor, report and improve our defense posture to keep pace with an evolving cyber threat landscape. The No. 1 priority has to be a zero-trust principle and should be the standard practice across all governmental and business systems.

DL: You speak multiple languages and have traveled the world extensively. Tell us about that, and some favorite places to visit outside the U.S.

HS: Growing up in foreign countries and learning multiple languages have given me a different perspective and appreciation for inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. My personal journey and experiences have had a large impact on my professional life and the type of leader I am. I have traveled all over Southeast Asia and experienced many different types of food, festivals, history and culture. We have many wonderful memories outside the U.S., which I love to share and enrich my team with.

DL: In about five to seven years, how will most local governments be different in regards to technology improvements and innovation?   

HS: As the world emerges from the pandemic to inflation/recession, the future years are calling for more innovative business changes, and more high-profile and business value technology projects to improve overall organizational performance. In general, the public will be asking for a smarter government/smarter community — one that is sustainable, connected, virtual, digital, smart, secured and multiverse [use of artificial or augmented intelligence]!

Smart is a journey, not a destination, and it never ends. It requires incremental steps and requires constant improvement and growth. As good stewards of community service, we are here to deliver good government, build infrastructure for the future, and enhance the life of citizens/communities through series of people, process and performance/technology.

DL: Anything else you want to add?  

HS: Changes in our world are continuous and challenging. As leaders, we need to embrace innovation as a moving target and start incrementally. Flexibility and adaptability are key for us to exist in the future. The future of technology is all about people, process and performance; we cannot do it on our own, without our team and our business partners. IDEA leaders (inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility) need to be authentic, empathetic and adaptive!

DL: I want to thank Sae for his government service, excellent leadership, and for his willingness to be interviewed for this blog.


I urge readers from state and local governments nationwide (and worldwide) to reach out and learn from the best practices and successes achieved in government technology and cybersecurity management at the city of Roseville and at the MISAC.   

*The California Public Sector CIO Academy is hosted by Government Technology.
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.