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AI / Municipal government

CIO Mark Wheeler is leaving Philadelphia city government

After five and a half years as the City of Philadelphia's chief information officer, the technologist will leave his post in August. Here's what he says is next.

Mark Wheeler. (Courtesy Photo)

The City of Philadelphia announced today that CIO Mark Wheeler would be leaving his position after five and half years.

Wheeler has been working with the City for a total of 13 years in various positions, including his time as the City’s first geographic information officer and as deputy chief information officer. Since becoming CIO in 2018, Wheeler has led technology initiatives such as the SmartCityPHL Roadmap, the City’s IT Strategic Plan, and the City’s five-year Digital Equity Plan.

Wheeler told Technical.ly on Wednesday afternoon that he is particularly proud of the City’s cybersecurity program and data privacy work he’s done.

“We’re here to keep the severity of the attacks as limited as possible, and I think we’ve done that,” he said.

He’s also proud of the City’s public safety portfolio, such as projects related to moving the police headquarters last year. Wheeler also led the Office of Innovation and Technology through the launch of PHLConnectEd, which brought free or low-cost internet to K-12 families across the city during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which he called “one of the most successful, most impactful community programs I’ve been involved in.”

Wheeler will officially leave his role on Aug. 4, but between now and then, he’s turning over the reigns to Interim CIO Sandra Carter, who was previously the deputy CIO and COO.

“I look forward to continuing to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of operations and government technology as we prepare for a new administration,” Carter said in a statement, referring to the TBD new mayor taking office in January 2024. “Information security, digital accessibility, and innovative practices will remain at the forefront of our priorities.”

Sandra Carter. (Courtesy photo)

Over the next month and half, Carter will be acting as CIO, and Wheeler will operate in the background, supporting the transition and finishing up projects, he said. He specifically named plans to finish a project about the risks and benefits of generative AI.

“[Carter has] been a trusted partner in all of this, she knows the operations very well, especially the cybersecurity and the project management issues that are very, very big for us on,” he said, “so I have 100% confidence in her ability to steer the ship.”

As the City is about to elect a new mayor, Wheeler said it felt like the right time to see what other opportunities are out there for someone with his skillset — and what new skills he could learn.

He’d like to pursue work that involves data governance, which he worked on in his previous role as geographic information officer. Because he’s also done some work with cybersecurity, he’s particularly interested in identity management and credential verification.

Wheeler said the decision to leave was tough, but he’s been receiving a lot of support from colleagues in and out of city government.

“It’s probably the best professional role I’ve ever had or may ever have in my life,” he said, “and I’m incredibly honored to have been able to serve the city as CIO, especially during the pandemic.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: City of Philadelphia / Office of Innovation and Technology
Series: Power Moves

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