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Oakland, Calif., Hires First Chief Information Security Officer

The East Bay city has hired its inaugural chief information security officer in Miriam Mehari. Mehari joined the city in 2005 and most recently served as an information systems administrator.

An aerial view of Oakland, Calif.
Oakland, California
Changes in IT are underway at the nation’s most diverse city: Oakland, Calif.

The municipality, the third largest by population in California’s Bay Area, is updating how it handles a key area of information technology.

The East Bay city, which serves around 430,000 residents, has welcomed its inaugural chief information security officer. On Thursday, while introducing herself in a panel discussion at the Bay Area Digital Government Summit,* longtime IT leader Miriam Mehari confirmed her appointment.
From left, Miriam Mehari, chief information security officer at the city of Oakland, Art Vogtlin, assistant IT director at the city of Roseville, and Savita Chaudhary, IT director at the city of Fairfield, discuss “Readiness, Responsiveness and Resilience” on Aug. 25 at the Bay Area Digital Government Summit in Foster City.
Theo Douglas / Industry Insider — California
“I am the newly appointed CISO at the city of Oakland as of Monday,” Mehari told the audience during a discussion of “Readiness, Responsiveness and Resilience,” indicating that previously she managed infrastructure services and operations. (Industry Insider — California will have more coverage of the event in coming days.)

“And I’ve overseen everything from networking to customer support services, telecommunications and (management information systems) MIS. And now, of course, you can’t have infrastructure without talking about cybersecurity; cybersecurity and infrastructure go hand in hand,” she added.

Mehari, who attended the University of California, Berkeley, joined the city in August 2005, according to her LinkedIn profile and before her current appointment served as information systems administrator (IT manager, infrastructure services). Her core competencies include resource planning/risk management, IT road maps and security, IT governance and strategy development, and strategic partnerships according to LinkedIn. Her specialties include “short- and long-range strategic planning and implementation of innovative, cost-effective and scalable solutions to meet complex business challenges while maximizing investments," she said on LinkedIn, indicating her areas of expertise include “cross-functional team building and management, contract and vendor negotiations and management, and process streamlining and optimization.”

Since the pandemic, she said during the panel discussion in Foster City, “there has been a renewed focus on cybersecurity, so this is actually the first-ever CISO position at the city of Oakland and we are establishing a new Office of Information Security within the Information Technology Department. Which I am honored to help build from the ground up.”

Mehari told Industry Insider Monday via email that the immediate goal is to “evaluate the city’s current cybersecurity posture and establish a comprehensive road map for achieving cybersecurity maturity in alignment with the (National Institute of Standards and Technology) NIST Cybersecurity Framework, prioritizing initiatives with the greatest impact and least risk.”

Her appointment isn’t the city’s only high-profile hiring this year; veteran technologist Tony Batalla joined the city May 2 as chief information officer. Batalla told Industry Insider he is “excited to have someone of Miriam's caliber in this role.”

“The new Office of Information Security is citywide in scope and the first steps will be to develop an assessment and implementation plan,” Batalla said. “A strong partnership between the CIO and the CISO will be vital to our success.”

This article was originally published by Industry Insider-California, Government Technology's sister publication.
Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.