In a City Hall reorganization that’s expected to save money while furthering IT, the city of Riverside has created two new executive positions and doubled down on technology by elevating its longtime innovation lead.

The changes, announced Friday in a news release from City Manager Al Zelinka, include promoting the city's chief innovation officer, Lea Deesing, to fill one of two assistant city manager positions. Deesing, who had been the chief innovation officer for more than five years, will continue to have oversight of the Innovation and Technology Department, but will now also oversee the city’s police, fire and finance departments and its library and museum.

Rafael Guzman, most recently the city’s director of community and economic development, was promoted to the second assistant city manager position. The former director spearheaded the creation last year of a One Stop Shop that streamlined development by uniting on one floor at City Hall all departments that are part of that process. Guzman will have oversight of Community and Economic Development; Public Works; Parks, Recreation and Community Services; Human Resources; General Services; and the Community Police Review Commission.

The reordering at Riverside, which ranked fifth by population in the Center for Digital Government's 2017 Digital Cities Survey, is intended to “accomplish more work” with more emphasis on priorities Mayor Rusty Bailey and the Riverside City Council identified through Riverside 2.1, the recent strategic planning process. The city also received a Best of California 2017 award from CDG recognizing the Innovation and Technology Department’s Kaizen Career Road Map Program. (CDG is part of e.Republic, parent company of Techwire and Government Technology and Governing magazines.) 

Deesing's first day as assistant city manager was Monday. Former Deputy CIO Chris Tilden is serving as interim CIO, and Chief Information Security Officer George Khalil is serving as interim deputy CIO while continuing his work as CISO. Riverside will mount a job search to fill its CIO and deputy CIO positions. The city of Riverside has also created two new deputy city manager roles.

Deesing said Zelinka, the mayor and City Council “really do see the city on the brink of some really great digital transformation.”

“I think I’ll be able to drive innovation and efficiency through the city of Riverside in a way that maybe hasn’t been done in the past,” said Deesing, who is also executive director of SmartRiverside, a 501c3 nonprofit that works to bridge the digital divide through education and technology. “And I think having that knowledge at that level is going to help really view the potential on what we can do on doing more with less.” 

Deesing said the city is already “really interested” in deploying robotic process automation and artificial intelligence (AI); using Internet of Things (IoT) technology and sensors to accomplish goals including automating fleet maintenance; and doing more to better understand and aggregate data it collects, to connect with residents via public-facing dashboards.

Robotic process automation could “help us leverage areas such as purchasing and accounts payable,” she said.

“We’re thinking about doing a little pilot to see if we can automate some of those repetitive tasks that we do on a regular basis, that a computer can do for us and then just alert us when there’s some issue that doesn’t meet the normal process,” Deesing said.