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Mark Headd: first ever City of Philadelphia Chief Data Officer

Mark Headd, the city's recently-named Chief Data Officer, might be joining the ranks of Philly's city government officials, but he has no intention of ditching N3rd Street for City Hall.

Mark Headd, the city’s recently-named Chief Data Officer, might be joining the ranks of Philly’s city government officials, but he has no intention of ditching N3rd Street for City Hall.


He hopes to keep his membership at coworking spot Indy Hall and to frequent other spots like Devnuts and Center City’s Seed Philly.

Headd, who was most recently Code for America’s director of government relations based out of Philly, says he wants to remain accessible to members of the tech and civic hacking community (Read more about his hacking history here). In fact, you can catch him at the Hacks/Hackers and PhillyPUG meetup at Azavea in Callowhill tomorrow.

The details — start date, staff support, etc. — are still fuzzy about his hire, but here’s what else Headd has planned for his new position (conveniently, he has a list of goals and deadlines to hit, as laid out by the city’s Open Data Policy):

  • Most broadly, he hopes to figure out what makes a good municipal open data program. This is important because “other cities are looking at Philly as a model,” Headd says. Only one other city – Chicago – has a CDO.
  • He’ll work on putting together the city’s open data portal, determining what kinds of data sets will be included and where to source this data. He also hopes to get a clearer picture of what kind of data the portal will offer. The city may not be able to provide certain kinds of data because it doesn’t have it or it’s not open to the public, Headd says. The mayor’s executive order says the city should launch this portal 90 days after the CDO’s hiring, which would be around early November. (This would be separate from, which is under new ownership.)
  • He’ll also work on getting together the mayorally-appointed Data Governance Advisory Board. The mayor’s executive order calls for this board to be appointed by the end of August,

Despite these benchmarks, Headd stressed that the city’s open data effort isn’t an outcome. It’s a process, he said.

“It’s not a state that we’ll get to where we’ll say, ‘We’re done,” he said.

It’s about changing the way that people inside government think about data, he said, and also changing the way Philadelphians think about using that data.

Headd said it was a tough decision to leave Code for America. Though he’s only been formally employed with the organization for six months, he’s worked with it for two years now. He says it doesn’t feel like he’s really leaving, since he’ll still work with Code for America — the program has close ties to Philly, Philly being the only city to chosen to host fellows two years in a row.

And yes, there’s a residency requirement for the job. Headd is leaving his home in Wilmington, Del., to move to Philly with his wife and two children. He says he’s thrilled to be moving into the city, and that due to the amount of time he spends here and the fact that his wife works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it’ll make his life easier.

Find more coverage of Headd’s hire on NewsWorks and GovTech.

Updated 8/13/12 11:05 a.m. to change headline, which read “Mark Headd: first ever City of Philadelphia Chief Digital Officer.”

Companies: City of Philadelphia / Devnuts / Indy Hall

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