Spotlight: Bruce Haupt, City of Houston

Bruce Haupt (@brucehaupt) is the Director of Performance Improvement for the City of Houston. He also recently co-organized the city’s first hackathon for the National Day of Civic Hacking— a resounding success with nearly 300 participants, 215 datasets, and 26 demoable projects by the end of the day. We asked him a few questions:

How did you come to work in local government (the postcard length version)?

As a high school dropout fifteen years ago, Brevard Community College was the local government entity that enabled what I do today. It’s where I decided I loved and wanted to do public service, and it’s where I began exploring public sector career paths. In terms of cities, my first serious exposure was in Linda Bilmes’ applied budgeting course at the Kennedy School. My team worked on fleet optimization for Mayor Menino in Boston, and that experience led me to the City of Houston where I continued working fleet. From fleet and IT to revenue collection, permitting and now procurement — I’ve never looked back. Local government is where the action is.

What outcome for the City of Houston Hackathon are you most proud of?

I’m super excited that we were able to take a fun event with awesome projects and turn it into further civic engagement with technology. We’re now launching a civic hacking series, tackling citywide procurement with projects like RFP EZ, and institutionalizing open data in terms of the data portal, datasets, and policies. Mayor Annise Parker and Council Member Ed Gonzalez were our earliest adopters — we’re creating many more new believers in Houston now.

What’s the biggest challenge to innovation you face in Houston?

I believe the biggest barrier to innovation is culture (both internally at the City and in how citizens perceive and interact with us) and to modify a popular quote: culture eats innovation for lunch — every time. For me, the question is how we place our shared challenges at the center and engage our staff, citizens, and businesses to solve them. I agree with Jeff Friedman in Philadelphia who commented that we in cities need to serve as a convener of people around the big problems and then get out of the way whenever possible.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

One of my first projects was launching a new fleet management system. Our team implemented the project five months ahead of schedule after the legacy system failed seven months before go-live. How? We cut out the red tape and unnecessary meetings and just got it done as a team. I really enjoy working on projects where we can bring everybody together in a similar way, remove the barriers, and then execute. Our Lean Six Sigma training and initiatives with City staff are a great example; our open data and civic hacking initiatives with citizens are new methods we’re excited to be exploring.

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

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