Seattle Finds New CTO in Former Ottawa CIO Saad Bashir

The new appointee brings experience from both the public and private sectors and will serve as the permanent replacement for Michael Mattmiller, who left in January 2018.

The city of Seattle looked to its northeast neighbor for the its next chief technology officer. Mayor Jenny A. Durkan nominated Saad Bashir, the former chief information officer for Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, as its next CTO.

The city sought a candidate “who brings a good balance of private- and public-sector experience to be the next CTO of the Seattle IT department,” said Durkan in press conference announcing Bashir’s appointment Tuesday. “We need somebody who is at the equal of the innovation that we see in the city daily. Seattle, the city, cannot lag behind Seattle, the innovator.”

Bashir, who served eight years as CIO in Ottawa, will pick up the role currently being held by Tracye Cantrell, who has been acting CTO since January 2018 when Michael Mattmiller announced his departure.

In his remarks Tuesday, Bashir listed several “change opportunities,” he aims to take on, which include reducing red tape and simplifying IT processes and structures.

"We are talking about reimagining how we manage our operations, deliver our services and engage with our citizens,” he said. “And all that means that we have to be extremely nimble in our approach. And that is something that will be foundational for whatever Seattle IT can offer.”

Prior to his role as CIO in Ottawa, Bashir served as that city’s director of economic development.

“On reason I like Saad so much, is before he became the head of IT, he was one of the largest customers of IT,” said Durkan. “And he brought with him that ethos to say, ‘How do we make sure that every line of business the city is served to do that business better by the technology infrastructure we build for them?’”

As CIO in Ottawa, Bashir managed a budget of about $100 million and oversaw a staff of more than 350. In Seattle, he will take on a budget of some $277 million and lead a staff of 680 employees.

“He’s a proven technology leader and I’m excited to work with him as he takes us to the next level,” said Durkan. 

Mattmiller served as CTO for four years and worked to modernize and consolidate the city’s technology infrastructure and redesigning the city’s website to better engage with the public.

The search for Bashir follows a months-long international process, reviewing some 220 candidates.

“I know that for us to move ahead, we have to have the most dynamic leaders in all of our departments. And I think today I can’t say enough about Saad being here,” said Durkan. “This is a huge step for the city of Seattle. We now have a leader who is an equivalent to any company, in any innovation sphere in Seattle today.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.