As was hinted at earlier this month, Louis Stewart started Monday as the city of Sacramento's chief innovation officer. He comes aboard just two months after officials in Mayor Darrell Steinberg's administration told Techwire that they would be restructuring the city’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Created last year under former Mayor Kevin Johnson’s administration, the innovation office is responsible for running the city’s Innovation and Growth Fund, among other initiatives. In collaboration with the mayor’s tech council, the office vetted roughly 140 applications for $1 million in grant funding in 2016, choosing 15 companies with ventures intended to boost the local tech economy.
Stewart previously was the deputy director for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) for the past seven years. In his role at GO-Biz, Stewart traveled the state to evangelize the iHubs program in California’s tech economy as a whole. He often spoke with government leaders, industry and academia about what can be done to move the needle on innovation, particularly in communities outside of Silicon Valley.
Steinberg, who has praised the innovation office, retained Ash Roughani, hired by Johnson as its first full-time program manager. Stewart is replacing interim chief innovation officer Abhi Nemani, an ex-city of Los Angeles official who Johnson hired on a contract basis to help launch Sacramento's program.
The mayor welcomed Stewart to his new role on Monday:
“We are working to create a new structure that better aligns our resources with our objectives,” Steinberg Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rivas said to Techwire in March. “The result will be a more holistic approach to how we leverage our assets in food, art and tech to create a more vibrant, destination city.”
Since Steinberg took over as mayor in December 2016, his team and the City Council have moved quickly on a number of measures, such as approval of a Demonstration Partnership Policy enabling the city to engage in partnerships with business, nonprofits or other government agencies in a timely fashion to make quick improvements where needed. Sacramento chief information officer Maria MacGunigal told local media that the city is committed to working with small businesses on innovative projects, and supporting emerging technologies like driverless cars and "small cell" wireless.
With reporting from Samantha Young.