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Seattle Appoints Jim Loter Interim Technology Officer

Loter is temporarily replacing Saad Bashir until the next mayor appoints a permanent CTO. While in the role, Loter plans to focus on supporting a hybrid workforce, employee soft skill training and equity.

Seattle’s IT Department is under new leadership, after Saad Bashir departed the CTO role he’d held for two years.

Deputy CTO Jim Loter officially took over, becoming interim CTO July 19. The post may change hands again: Loter told Government Technology the next mayor — chosen in November’s election — will select a permanent replacement for Bashir.

Loter has experienced much of Seattle’s IT department, where he’s added several different director roles to his resume since joining in 2016. His most recent stint as deputy CTO follows on previous work as director of Frontline Services from 2019 to 2020 and director of Digital Engagement from 2016 to 2019, according to his LinkedIn.

Jim Loter became interim CTO on Monday
Michael B. Maine
As interim CTO, Loter’s first focus is on tackling the challenges of supporting a newly hybrid workforce as some city employees return to office. Many of the IT department’s service models were designed around the assumption that employees would be staying in the same location for the majority of their workdays — something that can no longer be taken for granted, he said.

“We’re focused on making sure that staff can be mobile, flexible and resilient with the technology that’s assigned to them so they can make the successful transition back to the office, and so we can be prepared as a city for whatever the next crisis might be,” Loter said.

His department will need to supply the technology necessary to assist in the workforce transition. This is no small logistical hurdle, because many open questions remain around where personnel will need to be located to meet employees, constituents and agencies’ needs and preferences.

“There’s lot of uncertainty at this point about what the workplace of the immediate future will look like,” Loter said. “We and all of our city departments are trying to make plans, while the facts on the ground seem to change on a daily basis.”

Beyond tackling the immediate needs of a workforce in flux, Loter said he hopes to advance the city’s ongoing efforts around employee skills training and equity.

Bashir had launched efforts to help IT staff improve both their technology capabilities and soft skills — valuable work that Loter aims to continue. The training programs go beyond what might be expected of a stereotypical IT department, Loter said. Alongside offerings focused on technology and innovation, the programs include training on alternative dispute resolution, accepting and receiving critical feedback and other areas that help employees work better with each other and those they serve.

“That’s a huge priority,” he said.

Loter also plans to focus on promoting efforts to avoid bias in IT solutions and deployments, and on ensuring services are accessible to all residents.

He comes with prior experience from roles where he focused on the city’s public-facing digital presence. That work involves striving to make city services and information available to residents who may face obstacles due to factors like reliance on adaptive technology, being native speakers of languages other than English or lack comfort with digital tools.

Loter takes over from Bashir, who had made trimming bureaucracy and streamlining operations one of his center focuses. Within five months of taking office, Bashir eliminated 14 positions — including director and middle management ones — with the reported goal of undoing ingrained hierarchies. Bashir’s other restructuring efforts saw the consolidation of some client-facing functions, introduction of new governance structures, adoption of new policies to ensure regular adoption and patching of technology.

Bashir came to the job from Canada, where he had served eight years as the CIO of Ottawa, Ontario.

As of press time, Government Technology was unable to confirm the reason for Bashir's departure or his next move.
Jule Pattison-Gordon is a senior staff writer for Government Technology. She previously wrote for PYMNTS and The Bay State Banner, and holds a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon. She’s based outside Boston.