The City of Philadelphia announced Monday that Henry “Hank” Garie, who in February became the City’s geographic information officer, will now be adding chief data officer to his title to serve in both roles concurrently.
Garie bears the distinction of having served as New Jersey’s first geographic information officer in 1999, and has three decades of experience managing data structures with a focus on geospatial programs in both private and public sectors. He’s replacing former CDO Tim Wisniewski, who left the City (and the city) at the top of this year.
Philly Chief Information Officer Mark Wheeler said he was excited about the depth of experience Garie had earned previously in other forms of government, including federal and state.
“He impressed me with his experience,” said Wheeler, who previously served as the City of Philadelphia’s chief geographic officer. “But he’s also still looking to the future. He showed me he had a vision for the team. It makes sense to have him as person who can expand the roles, providing more direct insight into what we do now, and how we use our DataBridge product and how we can make it even easier to use.”
The long-tailed smart city push from local government, as laid out by the SmartCityPHL roadmap announced in February of this year, means Garie will be tasked with boosting the efficiency of the underlying data structure to support the initiative.
“Our goal is to guide the establishment of standards for improved data integration and enhance the collaborative environment for data sharing and problem-solving,” Garie said in a written statement. “By doing so, we can leverage both GIS and Open Data to help Philadelphia reach new heights as a data-driven city.”
Does it make sense to have one person helm these two senior roles? Wheeler says that, in the vision laid out for Philly’s civic tech, there’s an important thread bringing the two areas together, and Garie has the depth to connect them. It’s also a sign of maturation, Wheeler said, with open data staffers at the City’s digital transformation team — now a part of the Office of Innovation and Technology — taking on more direct leadership roles in specific projects.
Adel Ebeid, a tech and innovation exec who served as the city’s chief innovation officer under Mayor Michael Nutter, said the combined role made sense.
“I always felt the boundaries between open data and GIS are blurring,” Ebeid said. “Hank is the type of leader who can optimize the strategic intersection and potential of those two disciplines. When the Open Data program was first established in the City of Philadelphia, we recognized GIS as the model for data sharing and transparency so I commend the City for recognizing the intersection and combining the two roles.”
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