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Louisville Data Officer Departs for New Nonprofit Role

Michael Schnuerle made history as the first chief data officer of Louisville, Ky. A long-time maker of open-source tools, he will join the Open Mobility Foundation later in April.

Louisville, Ky.
Louisville, Ky.
Michael Schnuerle, chief data officer for Louisville, Ky., is headed to the private sector to join the Open Mobility Foundation.

Schnuerle told Government Technology that he will become OMF’s director of open source operations on April 27. He applied for the job in January, well before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the United States. 

Louisville became the 12th U.S. city to hire a CDO when Schnuerle took the position in 2016. A few years before, Louisville was one of the first cities to establish a formal open data plan. When Schnuerle came into the picture, he was tasked with bringing together the city’s extremely siloed data and creating standards for the data. 

He considers this open data work to be among his biggest accomplishments in Louisville. 

“I think I made some great strides there publishing and updating a lot of information that the public and organizations have wanted to see for a while,” Schnuerle said. 

But Schnuerle is most proud of being part of the team that assembled the city’s data governance group, which included 70 employees who worked with data on a day-to-day basis for the city. He said it was rewarding “taking a group of those people that were really siloed” over the last three years and connecting them for the benefit of the individuals and the city. Group members now have regular meetings and collaborate independently across departments. 

“They only thought it was just them in their department [before the group’s formation],” Schnuerle said. 

Not only did Schnuerle assist group members with upscaling their skills and getting access to free tools, he also helped them receive recognition for their accomplishments. A badge program allowed members to codify and show off their efforts and learnings. Schnuerle also elevated the team’s work to city leaders in different ways, including during end-of-year celebrations.

“That’s in front of a lot of people, 300 people in the city,” Schnuerle said of the annual celebrations. 

His new director position with OMF was the only job Schnuerle considered applying for over the last few years because he loved being Louisville’s CDO, he said, though he is looking forward to overseeing the building of other free tools in his new role. 

“These tools are open source,” he said. “They could be data standards. They could be applications. They could be partnerships with other organizations.”

Schnuerle has an interesting history with this sort of work and open-source tools. Years before becoming Louisville’s data officer, he developed a Google Maps tool that allowed users to view crime reports in Louisville. 

Looking forward, Schnuerle believes OMF’s work can inspire the creation of groups that tackle issues beyond mobility in urban areas. 

“I feel like it’s going to have a real impact on cities around the world, because this sort of collaborative multi-city, nonprofit structure, in conjunction with private companies … is something that doesn’t really exist anywhere else that I know of,” he said.  

Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.