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San Francisco Announces Next CIO: Linda Gerull Talks Customer Service, Partnerships and Cloud

As CIO of the tech-centric city, Gerull says she plans to provide the best services to residents as possible.

The search is over for San Francisco’s next technology leader: Linda Gerull was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee on June 7 to serve as the city’s next chief information officer and director of the Department of Technology.

Gerull, who most recently served as the director of Information Technology for Pierce County, Wash., will begin working with the city on July 17. She will be taking over for Interim CIO Kenneth Bukowski, who served in the CIO capacity after Miguel Gamiño left San Francisco to serve as New York City CTO in October of 2016.

Describing San Francisco as a hub for leading technologies, Gerull told Government Technology that she is thankful for the opportunity and excited to be in “such a vibrant and innovative city.” And she is eager to work with local technology businesses to provide the best services to residents as possible.

San Francisco is in the middle of its third Startup in Residence program, which helps connect local tech companies with city government to develop applications and services. And part of that service delivery is practicing the best customer service processes possible.

“We definitely want to make sure that the Department of Technology is a preferred service provider,” Gerull said, for city employees, residents and local businesses.

City Manager Naomi Kelly expressed her support for Gerull’s appointment in a press release, mentioning her track record in dealing with the public. “We were seeking a hands-on IT leader who understands IT operations and comes with a strong focus on customer service,” Kelly said in the release. “Linda has the passion and skills to help the department successfully fulfill its mission.”

Being in such a tech-centric city, the community is used to working with safe, secure and reliable technologies — and working with Department of Technology should be similar. Part of Gerull's role in overseeing the agency is “making sure that we are using best-of-breed technologies and leveraging our partnerships,” she said.

The department provides many of the core IT services for city operations through its management of municipal data centers, fiber, cybersecurity and Web services, among many others. Gerull will oversee the 228 department employees and manage the $113 million budget. While that number seems large, as most civil servants know, budgets become quickly constrained. Gerull expressed her duty to leveraging the technology that is already in place.

“We need to make sure we build that out and get the most out of that investment,” she said, adding that often in government, there is a very large technology portfolio. “What better way to reduce cost than to make good use of what you already have?”

And by leveraging what's already been in place, the city can avoid new implementation costs, avoid startup costs and avoid possible risk of failure, Gerull added, noting that it's surprising how often cities have excellent asset management or document management systems and don't even realize it.

Another emphasis for Gerull will be on shifting systems to the cloud. According to the Center for Digital Government’s* 2016 Digital Cities Survey, more than a quarter of surveyed cities have 20 percent or less of their systems in the cloud. San Francisco, while slightly above this number, is still in the midst of migration.

While serving as IT director for Pierce County, Gerull oversaw several system migrations to the cloud. “We implemented state-of-the-art cloud technologies,” she said, adding that she expects to help move that initiative forward in San Francisco.

And Gerull will have some help, as the city is in the market for a chief information security officer, who will help support the operating and development teams, and serve as an expert resource for other city departments and partners, she explained.

“San Francisco is an exciting place to be,” Gerull said, adding that the opportunity to serve under and with support from Mayor Ed Lee, whom she classifies as “a proponent for technology,” was an especially enticing draw to the position.

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.