Bob Bennett is a 24-year Army veteran who is ready to apply skills honed in the Middle East and Africa in his new role as Kansas City's chief innovation officer.
On Jan. 4, Kansas City, Mo., will fill its vacant chief innovation officer (CIO) position, the city announced last month. The position — left vacant in July by Ashley Hand, who's now a transportation technology strategist fellow for the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation — will be filled by Bob Bennett, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army.
The city's second CIO said he plans to continue Hand's work, focusing on projects around smart city initiatives, transportation and overall improvements to the experience of being in the city.
Bennett now works as an instructor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and has served on military fronts around the world. He commanded a battalion deployed to support troops in Iraq with replacement, medical support and family care, and served as chief of operations for the Army in Africa, coordinating more than 500 operations annually.
Working for the city is a great opportunity to settle down and do some "nation building at home," he said.
"Right now, we've got three or four things that are percolating that I'm learning more and more as I'm getting on-boarded," Bennett said, "the first of which is getting Wi-Fi available to all the people downtown and getting kiosks established where people can interact with local government and interact with community businesses or entities as public-private partnership."
Other projects to fall under his office will include a public-private partnership with Cisco called Think Big, a multi-city program that includes startup acceleration, co-working spaces and innovation centers. Bennett says the few meetings he's had with Cisco Think Big designers have left him impressed and excited.
"The amount of energy down there, creating applications and ideas that are solving problems that quite frankly we didn't even know we had," he said. "I'm excited with the idea that we can apply the tools to the city to help make their transportation system more efficient, to make their power delivery systems more efficient, to make riding a street car [a connected experience]."
Through the city's Department of Transportation, Bennett will also work on a project called Beyond Traffic, a smart cities initiative that he wasn't ready to talk about yet, but he hinted that there may be details forthcoming near the end of January.