Kansas City Innovation Chief to Step Down This Month

Alex Braszko, on the job since May 2019, points to the formation of an Emerging Technology Board to guide innovation work as a major achievement during his brief tenure as chief innovation officer.

Kansas City Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Photo by Timothy Klingler/Unsplash
Though he’s only been in the position since May 2019, Kansas City, Mo., Chief Innovation Officer Alex Braszko has left his mark. Taking the job following the departure of Bob Bennett, Braszko, named to the role in the waning months of outgoing Mayor Sly James’ term, has served since Aug. 1 under Mayor Quinton Lucas. 

Long noted for its smart city efforts, Kansas City issued an RFP last June for a private-sector smart city partner, but ended up closing the RFP without choosing one. That move signaled a change in direction for the city, which now aims to secure a broader base of buy-in from within the city and among residents on its smart city efforts, and in its use of emerging technology more broadly. 

“Anything smart-city-focused needs to be people-centered,” Braszko said. “It needs to be focused on serving and providing or improving quality of life for residents of the city.”

An Emerging Technology Board is presently being assembled, which will aim to engage a wide variety of stakeholders, including from within various city departments. The board was formally established in October “to replace and expand on the work of the Smart City Advisory Board,” and the mayor’s office is working diligently to finalize the board’s membership, according to city spokesperson Chris Hernandez.

“That board will benefit the city because it will be much more community based, and have a wider group of people that they're bringing in input from in the city,” Hernandez said, noting some additional areas that the group will weigh in on. “It's really going to be focused on some of those initiatives around digital equity and inclusion that are important to us.”  The board’s diverse participation will help ensure that it is an effective means of collaboration. Further, it will enable Kansas City to “get in front of disruptive business models” like electric scooters and ensure that people are at the focus of all smart city endeavors. 

But this new direction for innovation in Kansas City builds upon the many early lessons offered by Kansas City’s pioneering smart cities work, which includes 54 sensor-laden blocks in downtown that gather environmental, transportation and parking data, to name a few.

“What’s most important from an innovation perspective, we’ve learned and found value in what we have done and we hope to continue to bring value in what we do to get the right buy-in inside city hall and with our community as well,” he said.

Going forward, the Emerging Technology Board, rather than the innovation officer, will be the main driver behind the city’s tech-forward pursuits, supported by city staff in the city manager’s office and the data performance office. Kansas City’s innovation office will go away upon Braszko’s departure. 

As for Braszko’s next career stop, he didn’t provide specifics, but suggested that an innovation-related role in the Army was in his future. Like Bennett before him, Braszko came to his post with the city with a long resume of military experience, most recently as the Joint Effects/CEMA Division Chief for the U.S. Army in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.  

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter. Follow @GovTechNoelle
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