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Baltimore Mayor Names Two Key Tech, Equity Roles

Mayor Brandon Scott recently made two key technology hires – a chief data officer and a director of broadband and digital equity – that will help to address the city’s data needs and digital divide.

Baltimore, Md., has faced varied technology challenges in recent years, including large cyber attacks and a flurry of CIO resignations; now, Mayor Brandon Scott is taking steps to strengthen leadership in key areas and increase public trust in the government.

The mayor recently appointed two key technology positions within his administration: a chief data officer and a director of broadband and digital equity. The new position will not require the allocation of new funds, the city said in its press release.

Justin Elszasz will serve as the administration’s chief data officer and Jason Hardebeck as the city’s first director of broadband and digital equity. Scott said that both Elszasz and Hardebeck “will play integral roles” within the administration’s team.

Since the pandemic hit, Baltimore's persistent digital divide has been made all the more prominent with the transition to distance learning and remote work.

As a member of the mayor’s executive team, Hardebeck will coordinate with stakeholders and make decisions aimed at reducing connectivity barriers. As he stated in the press release, every citizen should be able to participate in the digital economy without limits.

“I look forward to working with the mayor and city administrator to fundamentally transform our approach to digital access and connectivity and do so through a lens of equity,” said Hardebeck.

Hardebeck brings a combination of public- and private-sector experience, having helped launch many startups in the tech industry and in serving as executive director of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council and Maryland Business Council.

Elszasz will be working with various city agencies to improve data practices across city government. He will be working to reduce equity-related impacts of biased data and promote effective data use and transparency.

“Every day, I’m inspired to work in an administration that places data, equity and transparency at the center of our work for residents, and am honored to continue serving the city in this new and broader capacity,” said Elszasz in the release.

Elszasz previously worked as the deputy director and analytics lead for the Mayor’s Office of Performance and Innovation (OPI), making him familiar with the city’s unique challenges and history. He was also a founding member of the city’s Innovation Team, and previously worked for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Among other efforts, Elszasz is developing the city’s first Open Checkbook, which will allow residents to explore city expenditures.

These appointments are not Scott’s first attempt to increase transparency through data. 

When he took office in December 2020, he revealed the 100 Days of Action Tracker, a tool allowing the public to view his goals and progress for the first 100 days having taken office. Of 58 planned actions, 23 were completed and 31 were in progress as of the final day of tracking, March 18, 2021. Hiring for the director of broadband and digital equity position was one of the planned actions this tool tracked.

Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.