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Travis reorganizes administrative operations department

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The Travis County Commissioners Court has begun a major reorganization of its former Administrative Operations Department. Among other changes, the move creates a new executive manager for information systems and communications.


In the process, it has taken the three largest sections of the Administrative Operations Department and removed them from that umbrella. It also appears unlikely that that department’s vacant executive manager position will be filled.


The court acted on a set of recommendations laid out in a memo drafted by a high-level review team. That team, which is made up of the county’s current executive managers, Purchasing Agent Cyd Grimes, and County Auditor Susan Spataro, became a permanent advisory group by the court’s action.


Precinct 1 Commissioner Ron Davis steadily opposed the effort, voting “no” on each of the motions to take up staff recommendations. Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez joined him in opposition to the moving of the county’s human resources division to the oversight of its Planning and Budget Office. Still, each of the adjustments passed with the support of the rest of the court.


Davis told the court that he felt that the county’s chief technology officer position should suffice for its IT needs. “We are creating another layer here and I think it’s inappropriate,” he said.


He also returned to his request that the county hire an executive manager of administrative operations before it moves to reorganize itself. “I still feel very strongly that we should fill the vacancy of the administrative ops position,” he said.


That seems unlikely. In order to fund the new technology executive manager position, the county acted to use funds that would otherwise have gone to pay a new administrative operations head. As a result, it appears that the county will continue on without that member of its leadership team.


The administrative operations executive position has been vacant since Alicia Perez was fired from that role over a year ago. Perez’s dismissal brought with it a helping of controversy.


Other changes approved by the court include the creation of an information technology advisory board that will, among its responsibilities, “conduct a readiness assessment for the major mission critical projects that are currently underway (in County IT).” The court also assigned the county’s facility’s department to the temporary authority of Emergency Services Executive Manager Danny Hobby.


The court will reassess that move in three to six months, after it hires a replacement for current Transportation and Natural Resources Chief Joe Gieselman. That department is expected to be facilities’ final destination.


Current Chief Technology Officer Joe Harlow will move over to the new executive manager slot in an interim capacity. The county will conduct a search to fill the position on a permanent basis.


“I don’t know that (this is) huge,” Judge Sam Biscoe told In Fact Daily, “but it’s pretty significant, I think. The problem with (information technology) is that it impacts every department, plus it involves millions of dollars and as time goes on it becomes more important. So having an executive manager over (that department) and (having them) answer directly to the Commissioners Court is probably the right move.”

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