Code for America’s Jennifer Pahlka Stepping Down Jan. 31

Pahlka will remain on in an advisory capacity as two senior leaders from within take over as co-interim CEOs. The organization’s search for a permanent CEO will continue with a goal of finishing by the end of the year.

by / January 24, 2020
Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director at Code for America, speaks at the group's eighth annual summit in Oakland, Calif. Theo Douglas/Techwire

Code for America (CfA) Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka, who has led the group since its 2009 inception, will step away from daily responsibilities as of Jan. 31, promoting a pair of senior leaders from within to serve in her stead.

Those leaders will be interim co-chief executive officers, and they are Chief Financial and People Officer Zeryn Sarpangal and Chief Technology Officer Lou Moore. Pahlka will transition to an advisory role, continuing to serve on the group’s board and acting as a consultant. In a blog post making the announcement Friday, Pahlka cited as her reason the currently strong status of the organization as well as a shift in her own priorities driven by family.

“I’m not going away,” Pahlka wrote in the post, “just focusing on a smaller set of priorities where we believe I add the most value (including our search for a CEO, which continues as planned), and leaving the day-to-day leadership in Lou and Zeryn’s capable hands.”

This is all mostly in accordance with a plan first announced in May. At that time, Pahlka said she would continue running the group in a daily capacity until a new CEO was selected. The change announced now is that Pahlka is transitioning to her new role before a new permanent CEO has been selected. In a phone conversation with Government Technology, Sarpangal and Moore said the goal is to find the long-term CEO by the end of year, taking the necessary time to find a person suited for such a specific and nuanced position.

As for what will change within the group, Sarpangal and Moore said there won’t be much, if anything at all. They shared some of their plans with a joint blog. In brief, work will continue on the host of ongoing CfA projects that have gained momentum in recent years, the majority of which are focused on helping to create a more human-centered safety net for the country. The headliner for this work is probably GetCalFresh, which helped 1 million eligible Californians access food benefits last year. Another program, Clear My Record, is spreading rapidly across the country, helping district attorney’s offices automatically process convictions clearances made possible under new laws related to marijuana.

In addition, the group is undertaking some newer projects too, specifically one aimed at helping residents claim their earned income tax credits. The first pilot for that program will take place this year during the 2020 tax season. Finally, CfA’s brigade network of civic tech groups nationwide will continue without change.

Both Moore and Sarpangal stressed that Pahlka will still be an integral resource and consultant for them during this time.

“We’re grateful to her for her support,” Sarpangal said. “For her support of us as well as for the civic tech community as a whole.”

Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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