A top-level state data position is due to be revived, an official has confirmed to Techwire.
As tipped on its website, the Government Operations Agency will seek to hire a chief data officer. But this isn’t just a plan to hire any CDO. This is the state-level CDO position, which has been vacant since 2017, when Zachary Townsend, California’s inaugural data leader, stepped down. Among the takeaways:
• Little is known about the position because the job posting is still being drafted. The GovOps website simply names it and says “(coming!).” However, when Townsend’s hiring was announced June 30, 2016, under former Gov. Jerry Brown, his job description indicated he would be “the primary steward of the data portal for the state’s public data.” Techwire reported he would be “tasked with developing statewide data standards and expanding the state's inventory of data,” per the then-new job description. It's unclear how those details are being updated.
On LinkedIn, Townsend, who left to become an adviser at Social X-Change at Stanford University, said he had responsibility for “three key initiatives based on data collected in the normal course of state business to improve transparency, efficiency, and accountability in state operations”; and worked to demonstrate the value of data in decision-making, encourage public use of open data for innovation, and encourage shared use of data throughout the state. The senior technology policy adviser in the Newark, N.J., Mayor’s Office in 2012, Townsend was product management lead at payroll and health benefits company Gusto immediately before joining the state. He is now an associate partner with McKinsey & Co.
• The position will be “housed” at GovOps, agency spokesperson Lynda Gledhill told Techwire, indicating she doesn’t know when the actual listing will be posted. It’s also not entirely clear whether the position is being reactivated to address specific state data needs.
“We’ve had that position before, is the way to think about it," Gledhill said. "It’s not been sitting vacant for years. Every time somebody leaves, it creates an opportunity to reassess the needs of the organization, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Asked whether this was a case of a position being mothballed and then brought back, Gledhill said: “Again, I think it’s just a matter of priority shift. This was a good time to bring it back.”
• Townsend received $130,000 in annual salary as California’s first CDO. The new position’s salary isn’t certain. As in 2016, California’s next CDO will be appointed by the governor, who will determine his or her compensation. A spokesman for the California Department of Human Resources said the state hiring process is highly federated and GovOps is spearheading the development of this position.
• GovOps has posted two additional high-level, non-technology positions that will be gubernatorial appointees. It is seeking a deputy secretary for Human Resources and a deputy secretary for General Services.